Given what he's trying to do for her daughter's family, Tara Legault said she considers Townehouse Tavern manager Paul Loewenberg an honourary member of her family.
On Dec. 21, Legault's daughter, Bonita Roman-Johnson, her husband, Jesus Roman, and their three young children were travelling to Greater Sudbury from their Toronto home for the holidays, when they were involved in a collision.
While no one suffered any injuries, Jesus was arrested by the OPP as an “undocumented immigrant” from Mexico. Jesus has been in Canada for years, but the family had only filed for family sponsorship of the man in September.
Jesus has since received a stay of deportation, as a judge agreed it would cause irreparable harm to his children if they were separated from their father.
However, he remains at the Rexdale Detention Centre while the family comes up with $18,000 in cash, as well as guarantors to sign for another $18,000.
They also have to find another $6,500 for legal bills — a total that continues to grow — as well as find a way to support the family in the meantime. Jesus, a carpenter by trade, was the family's sole income earner.
In stepped Loewenberg, who organized a Jan. 6 fundraiser at the Elgin Street bar.
Several bands and musicians performed at the event, and artists, including Paula Johnson, another one of Legault's daughters, donated their art for a silent auction.
“It's just really remarkable (Loewenberg) would step up like that just out of the goodness of his heart,” Legault said.
Loewenberg said he learned about the family's plight through Facebook. He contacted Paula, who he knows because she often plays percussion with the bar's house band, and asked her if a fundraiser would be a good idea.
“Because she's part of the art family of our community, I wanted to do something to support her family,” he said, adding that he hoped to raise a few thousand dollars for the family through the event.
The city's arts community is always willing to donate their time to help those in need, Loewenberg. “I'm always grateful that we live in a community that likes to share and get involved.”
Travis Lausch, a member of Biodreams, a punk rock/alternative band which played at the event, echoed Loewenberg's sentiments.
“I'm just always down for helping people,” he said.
“If there's a cause, I'm there. I like the idea of my music and the music I do with this band to actually enlighten and help people. I don't want to just be another one of those artists that don't really care about anything about their own art.”
Paula said the last few weeks have been extremely stressful for her family.
“It's been an ongoing saga of horror then joy then horror and joy and horror and joy, just constant up and downs of emotions,” she said.
“What started as my mom literally dancing for joy that my sister was coming up, went to 'What are we going to do? Our family is being broken apart.'”
Meanwhile, Legault said she hopes her son-in-law, who she said has always been an extremely hard worker and is a wonderful husband and father, is able to stay in the country.
“He's a guy that I think Canada needs to take a gamble on,” she said. “He is a good candidate to be a citizen of this country.”
Anyone interested in donating to the family is asked to email a Paypal donation to HelpBonitaandJesus@gmail.com. For more information, search Get Jesus Out of Jail on Facebook.
-With files from Jenny Jelen