A century of achievement
The story began at Rideau Hall in 1906, when Lady Sybil Grey, daughter of the then Governor General, invited a group of Ottawa ladies to gather and to discuss applying for an IODE charter. Laurentian is the oldest chapter in Ottawa and the 103rd in Canada.
Tuberculosis was a dreaded disease in 1906. The first project that Laurentian therefore undertook was to raise funds to build a Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Ottawa. A weeklong fair, called the "Fair for All Nations," was organized at the Laurier Street Drill Hall, and $17,000 was raised - an immense amount in those days. It was enough to finance the ambitious project. The Sanatorium, when it opened on February 10, 1910, was called the Lady Grey Hospital, and later became part of the Royal Ottawa Hospital. The old building was demolished in 2008 and, once again, Laurentian Chapter participated in fitting out the new building.
Supporting our troops
With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Laurentian Chapter redoubled its efforts in the face of an immense national threat. Membership in the chapter mushroomed to 60, and an office opened in downtown Ottawa. Here, Ottawa women worked to assemble, package and dispatch comforts for servicemen. The first Christmas of the war, 3,000 pairs of socks were sent overseas to Canadians suffering cold and terror in the trenches, as well as tobacco, chocolate and toiletries. Members recruited local firemen in their off hours to help knit those socks. The chapter provided up to 200 pounds of wool to the firemen every week and, in one seven-month period alone, 1,000 pairs sent to sailors serving with the Canadian Navy. Blankets were also sent to the Queen's Canadian Military Hospital in London, along with an operating table. The chapter also opened a servicemen's club in Ottawa, where they served as many as 300 hot meals a day to soldiers in transit. The chapter carried out similar programs during the Second World War, and it also helped to /ping child evacuees to Canada and to care for them during the war. They sent food parcels to British families and these and other comforts to sailors on a Canadian warship - the HMCS Cataracqui - which the chapter adopted in 1944.
The war ended and the organization looked for a constructive way to memorialize the suffering and losses of those years. It turned to education. In 1919, the National Chapter of the IODE inaugurated a Canadian scholarship as part of the IODE War Memorial. Laurentian Chapter continues to support a variety of scholarships annually in a variety of fields. They also have adopted literacy as a major thrust of their fund-raising activities. The chapter can justly claim to be ahead of its time in the education field.
Service to others
After the war, soldiers returned from overseas to a host of problems that were exacerbated in 1929 by the beginning of the Great Depression. For ten years, the world economy suffered, while many thousands of Canadians tried to make do without employment. The Laurentian Chapter devised many new schemes for raising funds to relieve suffering in Canada.
A novel concept - the House and Garden Tour
In 1961, Laurentian Chapter created a new kind of fund-raiser - the Laurentian Chapter House and Garden Tour - which continues to be an important source of income for the organization some 50 years later. Every summer, Ottawa residents look forward to touring five or six interesting houses under the welcoming and watchful eyes of Laurentian Chapter volunteers. For many years, the tour has been the chapter's flagship event in terms of raising funds for good causes.
In 2006, Laurentian Chapter cele/pated its Centennial with a Reception given by the Governor General at Rideau Hall. A donation of $17,000 - to match the original grant of 1910 - was presented to the Royal Ottawa Hospital to cover furnishing of the Youth Ward. In 2010, Laurentian Chapter continues to work in three important areas - education, citizenship and service.