Gordon Boissonneault is standing on the Centretown Pub patio on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Flanked by two twentysomething Pride volunteers, the organization’s chair is trying to keep in good spirits, but he’s clearly frustrated.
When Pride is in crisis, he says, people don’t help out because they think it’s a lost cause. But when Pride isn’t in crisis, homos don’t think organizers need their help.
They’re not in crisis, but they do need the community’s help, he says.
In May, Pride set a “modest” goal of raising $2,500 from the community in advance of the big week. They put up posters featuring an empty thermometer, hoping to fill in the white space as donations were collected. Boissonneault says the response has been “dismal.”
“It’s been very poor. I’ve been very disappointed by the response we’ve received so far,” says Boissonneault.
Pride was also dealt a blow when Caisses Populaires, one of their major corporate cash sponsors, declined to renew their sponsorship. While Boissonneault says “it’s their prerogative,” the budgetary concerns have been compounded by the silent treatment they’ve received this year from most local gay businesses. Other cities like Vancouver have lost national sponsors in the run-up to the 2010 Olympics. Ottawa’s event has precious few to spare.
That’s why they’re taking their show on the road, canvassing bar goers at popular gay dance and pub nights. Their Jul 15 stop at CP represents the first stop on a four-week blitz to raise cash.
“Donations up to $2,500 will be matched by The Knowledge Circle, a language and business training group. We’re hoping that that will entice people to donate,” he says.
Hitting the bars five nights a week is labour intensive and they need all the volunteers they can get, Boissonneault says. He adds that the 10-member Pride board is down to five so they don’t have the man hours available to blitz the bars on their own. Before arriving at CP on Sunday, Boissonneault spent the day at Pride planning sessions, conducting interviews and doing a photo shoot.
Joe Jacques and Tim Beaudry came to a recent Pride meet and greet and volunteered to help out. In front of CP, sweat began to bead on their foreheads, but the pair seems in good spirits.
“Every dollar we get is an investment in Pride,” says Beaudry. “The more money we raise, the louder we’ll be during Pride Week.”
Boissonneault says that people can volunteer for Pride Week or for the bar blitzes and that people are desperately needed. Jacques, for his part, is happy to help.
“It creates a sense of cohesion and a sense of community. There are so many communities in Ottawa that you just don’t see everybody other than at Pride,” says Jacques.
The $12,000 the city granted Pride will go to paying the city for fencing and policing costs which they did not have to pay for last year. That means that Pride is not much further ahead than last year. Boissonneault also says that “making a dent” in the crippling $130,000-dollar debt must be a priority, but adds at this point it doesn’t look like it will be happening.