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Retired Montreal businessman surprises Chez Doris women’s shelter with $1M gift

In this undated photo, Andrew Harper is seen at Chez Doris. Harper has donated $1 million to the women's shelter. Sunday, May 6, 2018.
In this undated photo, Andrew Harper is seen at Chez Doris. Harper has donated $1 million to the women's shelter. Sunday, May 6, 2018. Courtesy Chez Doris

Montreal’s Chez Doris women’s day shelter is getting a much-needed and unexpected boost, after a retired Montreal businessman decided to donate $1 million to the organization.

Andrew Harper, 95, owned and operated a business specializing in the import and distribution of cookies and chocolates, along with his late wife, Carole Harper.

Having lived a good life, Harper said he felt compelled to help out.

“Carole and I made a good living, and I wanted to contribute to an organization which helps the most disadvantaged and which is not far from my own neighbourhood,” he said in a written statement.

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Harper also encouraged others to do the same.

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“I invite men and women who want to make a difference to invest in the organization as it plays a big role in improving our society,” he said.

Chez Doris is open seven days a week, with up to 100 women dropping in on a daily basis.

The shelter offers several services such as breakfast and lunch, access to showers, hygienic products and a clothing depot, as well as various educational and recreational programs — to name but a few.

However, the number of women who need help keeps growing.

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In the last year, 551 women visited Chez Doris for the first time, which represents a 58 per cent increase over the previous year.

Chez Doris executive director Marina Boulos-Winton said Harper recognized the growing needs of the community.

“During initial discussions with Mr. Harper and his accountant, his contribution went from $10,000 to $1 million,” she said.

The shelter has been through difficult times in recent years.

READ MORE: Chez Doris women’s shelter reminding people it still needs help

In 2014, it was forced to cut back on services and just barely avoided having to shut its doors. Last year, necessary repair work to the building cost close to $660,000.

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The Harpers’ donation, Boulos-Winton said, will not only help the shelter meet the needs of its existing clientele, but hopefully it will allow the organization to expand on the services it can offer.

Harper was honoured for his contribution Sunday afternoon at Chez Doris’ annual Tea Time event, with several dignitaries in attendance, including Quebec’s Native Affairs Minister Geoffrey Kelly and the minister for relations with English-speaking Quebeckers, Kathleen Weil.

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Furthermore, the building housing the shelter on Chomedey Street now bears the name of Carole and Andrew Harper.

To learn more about shelter and its various services, consult the Chez Doris website.