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Bread & Roses returns after COVID hiatus

Gina Keeping-Taverner – Submitted photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — The Bread and Roses Soiree, held by the Gateway Status of Women Council, returned after a two-year hiatus on Friday, March 26, which is a little later than in previous years, prior to the global pandemic. The annual event is a celebration of International Women’s Day and the importance of empowering women from all walks of life. “I always say it’s our annual wedding every year,” said Christine Seymour, Executive Assistant with the Gateway Status of Women Council. Tickets quickly sold out once they became available on March 1. “We sold out in ten minutes, but having said that, we only sell a certain number of tickets here at the centre because our board, which is a 12-member board, have privy to 10 tickets each to sell them to whomever they want to sell them to,” explained Seymour. “Back in the beginning of Bread and Roses, from what I understand, it was something new that they decided to do, so each board member was given ten tickets to try to sell, so that’s what they’ve always kept with. However, we have decided that next year we are going to try and do the online ticket purchasing because, I think, if we could book somewhere that could hold 350 people, I think we would get that many. It’s like this every year, even before COVID, and we’ve tried different ways of selling tickets, trying to be fair to everybody, and it’s getting to the point that we feel we need to try another approach because demand is so high.” While the council may tweak the ticket sales, they seem to have organizing the gala well in hand. “It was no more difficult. There is a pattern to it, a process,” said Seymour. “You book your caterers, you book your decorator, book your venue, decide on your meal choice, gather up prize donations from the community, which I would love to add were extremely generous, as they are every year. Our community partners and community businesses are extremely generous to us for this event.” Donations for the prize totaled around 80, but they were not the only donations received. “On our tickets we usually put a little line asking if people would like to donate an item to our Personal Care Program, which is pretty much entirely donation based, except when we have a project, like we just had a 15-month project with a personal care budget, and that ended as of March 31, so we will be back to looking at donated items, and the public brought in a huge amount at the hall that night, something I’d love to thank people for.” Seymour believes that the excitement for the return of the Bread and Roses gala was likely due to two factors. “I think everybody was really excited about who the guest speaker was going to be this year and the fact that we missed this event for two full years. The guest speaker was local. Everybody had heard lots about her. People are following her blog and things, so they knew a little bit about her, and I think they were really excited to get to see her perform here in Port aux Basques.” As during prior years, the evening had a similar schedule of events. “We had the dinner and greetings from the MHA and our mayor, and then one of our board members said grace, then we had songs performed by Denise Durdle-Anderson. She is a board member, and Barry Musseau played guitar while she sang. That’s always very welcome because she has a beautiful voice and Barry, of course, can make a guitar talk,” said Seymour. “Then, of course, the president, Candace Matthews. She talked about the women’s centre, the work we do and how valuable it is in the community, and then she introduced the guest speaker.” Gina Keeping-Taverner, a business and mindset mentor, was the guest speaker for the evening. Keeping-Taverner has dedicated her life and her business to empowering women to live a life they love, so speaking at a gala dedicated to celebrating women was a perfect fit, and she was honoured to have the opportunity to return to her hometown as a guest speaker. “I was excited and nervous all at once. I’ll be totally honest,” said Keeping-Taverner. “I don’t usually get really nervous when I step onto stage. It’s something I always joke about. I say I was ‘born to talk.’ It hits differently when you go back to your hometown.” Being back in Port aux Basques and seeing familiar faces definitely increased the pressure, but also made the whole experience that much more enjoyable. “I’ve shared my journey very publicly, but it’s different when you are in a room of over 250 people who know you. My babysitter who changed my diaper was in the front row, so you go back and it’s people who know this version of you who, in my case, that version of me doesn’t really exist anymore,” said Keeping Taverner. “I really wanted to do a good job and we just had the natural disaster, so it was definitely very excited and very nerve-wracking all at once.” Seymour said she was a hit. “She wowed the audience. She got a standing ovation,” said Seymour. “We always try to get a strong message out from our guest speaker and the guest speaker is probably the hardest piece because a lot of people can talk, but not a lot of people want to get up in front of 225 women and captivate the audience, hope that their message is heard, but we always try to find a guest speaker who has something positive and encouraging and valuable to put out there in their speech.” The importance of the annual event is well established. “Out of all the women’s centres, I think we are the only ones who put off as big of an event as this. Going back to when it first began, Susanne Ingram, she would’ve been the Executive Director at that time, and it was probably felt it was a good way to celebrate International Women’s Day and have something to look forward to, as a woman,” said Seymour. “It was a fantastic night. Everything went perfectly smooth. There were no hiccups and it was everything that we hoped it would be. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who supports this every year. We’re really happy to get the support that we do from the community and from our audience as well, and we will be back again next year!”

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