A first-time gala is in the works to rally support for Jessie’s House, a Morinville-based emergency shelter for individuals fleeing domestic violence.
Titled Country Cabaret, the lavish event takes place Saturday, Nov. 16, at Lily Lake Resort and combines a silent auction, sumptuous dinner and spirited dance.
Country singer Jason Benoit is the featured headliner slated to perform three 45-minute sets. The CCMA Award winning recording artist has four Top 30 hits. His Gone Long Gone reached No. 7 on the Canadian Country Billboard Chart and achieved gold status.
Jessie’s House, built in honour of Jessica Martel, a mother of three who was murdered by her partner, is near completion and scheduled to start offering spaces in March 2020.
The Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation has built the 9,200 square foot house and is now generating funds for operational costs.
When the foundation contacted Benoit’s booking agency to discuss a gig, the country singer-songwriter jumped at the opportunity to provide support.
“It’s such a great cause. I have a huge respect for women and anybody who is attacked and has violence directed at them. I see this as an opportunity to give back and prevent this from happening again. I may not know the people involved in this cause, but I can empathize,” said Benoit.
Although the attractive, lean six-footer has never been affected by domestic violence directly, he admits to being bullied in school.
“When I was younger, I never had as much confidence as I do now. Music is a big reason why I developed confidence,” he added.
The singer-songwriter will sing a mix of his Top 10 hits, a scattering of covers as well as songs from his Oct. 2019 release Revolution, Part 1. The seven-track blends modern country melodies with old-style guitar picking and harmonies.
At a cost of $1.4 million, Jessie’s House is the first shelter built in Alberta in 20 years. It was constructed exclusively from private and corporate donations.
“You have to be in operation before you can apply for government operational funding,” said Lynne Rosychuk, the driving force behind Jessie’s House.
Rosychuk was Martel’s mother and she was hit particularly hard with her daughter’s murder on April 29, 2009. Just a few months earlier, Anette Marie Dupuis, a Cardiff realtor living in an abusive relationship, was also killed in Dec. 2018 in an apparent murder-suicide that sent shock waves throughout Sturgeon County.
Unable to save her daughter, Rosychuk vowed to prevent the tragedy from happening to others. By speaking up and sharing her story, Rosychuk attracted a surge of community supporters.
“This January it’s been eight years since we started the foundation,” said Rosychuk. “We wanted the community to be involved. It’s very difficult to deal with domestic violence in rural communities. It’s hard enough to leave the support you’ve built up, but to get into a city shelter is near impossible.”
Once the Town of Morinville donated land for the safe house, people saw the beginnings of a tangible asset.
“It’s an impressive house, especially since it's grown from what started at 2,000 to 9,000 square feet. The amount of community support is incredible. And we have a special angel who has helped us but does not wished to be named.”
The facility can accommodate up to 35 people. Unique in design, it is built with three family suites and a self-contained suite for large or inter-generational families.
It also features a large common room, spiritual retreat, playroom, office space, kitchen and laundry area.
The gala’s goal is to raise $30,000. Organizers hope guests will bid on any of the 30 auction items include Oilers tickets, a set of four truck tires and a beauty basket to a Yeti cooler, as well as two West Jet tickets to fly on any company route or a Ukrainian dinner for eight.
Country Cabaret opens with Edmonton country singer Ryan Snow. Tickets are $100 each and are available at jmmf.ca/cabaret or at ATB Morinville, Canadian Tire St. Albert and Lily Lake Resort.