As far as Marina Boulos–Winton is concerned; International Women’s Day at the Chez Doris women’s shelter should be all about women doing real things for women. And as of last Sunday morning, that’s exactly what happened at Chez Doris – the city’s downtown shelter that provides a safe space for women who know what ‘Gimme Shelter’ really means on the streets of Montreal .

While a good breakfast is always supposed to provide a good start for a new day, Sébastien Ducasse and staff from Westmount’s 5 Saisons did their best to prepare a special Sunday morning breakfast for people who really have nothing to do after that second cup of Sunday morning coffee. As ever, it was a Canadian standard made up of scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, fruit cups and assorted pastry prepared and served by the local gourmet grocery and catering shop who understand what a good croissant can do for the rest of your breakfast.

It was also a special day for DDO resident Sarah Alter and her friends who know what good lipstick and a bit of mascara can do for women who need that extra little bit of confidence before they step out and face the world. For most of the morning, Gretchen Alfonso, Krystina Maltais and Allison Chevalier – Shapiro provided professional makeovers for at least 20 women who walked away with lots of party favors (A gift bag full of Arbonne beauty products) and a whole new look to greet the day.

With only an hour to go before lunch, several women took the time to listen to what Marie–Christine Ricignulo had to say about getting on with your life when you think it’s over and that there’s really nothing left to live for. As a single mother who lost her sight shortly after the birth of her son who was born with the same optical disorder that cost his mother her sight, Ricignulo had to make a lot of decisions in order to get ready to take on the challenges that would define the rest of her life. In learning to live in her new world, Ricignulo had a lot to say about the satisfaction that’s to be found when you discover the resilience, determination and the courage one needs to deal all of the major and minor challenges that will define the rest of your life. Aside from her natural poise and her good-humored confidence, Ricignulo’s courage in the face of abject adversity serves as both a beacon and a lesson for others who are facing the same problems on a daily basis.

When it was time for lunch, Montreal’s Groupe Leclaire – a family owned car dealership – came through with a steak dinner that had everything – including cake and dessert – for any and all of the center’s clients who can appreciate how a safe space can make all the difference in the world when you’re alone and homeless on the streets of Montreal.

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