Recently homelessness in Lennox and Addington has been a popular dinner time conversation in homes across the region.
On Feb. 23 the conversation will leave the warmth of the kitchen and move outside as volunteers take part in the Coldest Night of the Year fundraising walk through Napanee.
Hosted locally by Morningstar Mission, the event will see walkers depart the mission at 5:15 p.m. and embark on a two-, five- or 10-km walk through town in an effort to simulate what a homeless person must endure when living on the streets in February. A handful of warming rest stops will be set up along the route and a meal will be served back at the mission.
“Homelessness is really featuring prominently right now, coffee conversations, water cooler conversations, everybody from little kids to grandparents know there’s homelessness in Napanee,” said Kevin Alkenbrack, executive director for Morningstar Mission. “But someday homelessness may not be featured so prominently in everyday conversation. The hope is Coldest Night of the Year will be a legacy.”
Walkers aged 11-17 must raise, either through fundraising or paying themselves, a minimum of $75 while adults over 18 must raise or pay $150. Children under the age of 10 can take part in the walk for free.
Money raised will go towards Morningstar, which works with local homeless people to provide warm meals and also assists with the recently opened warming centre, located at the Napanee Area Community Health Centre.
“Morningstar is trying to raise some money to bolster the program,” explains Alkenbrack. “We’ve seen probably a 30-per-cent increase for our services. We need to bolster that. We have finally been able to purchase our building and we need to fix our roof and our walls so having a fundraiser focused around homelessness allows us as a charity to raise some much-needed funds.”
Along with raising money, Alkenbrack says the event serves as a bit of an eye opener for people who may not realize some of the daily challenges faced by those with no roof over their head.
“It’s a chance not only to be out and reflect on what it’s like to be outside in the dark, walking in the cold, which people experiencing homelessness have to do everyday,” said Alkenbrack. “But at the same time they’ve got bright toques on. Hopefully there’s going to be 100 people and this mass of people processing around town will generate conversation and bring awareness to homelessness.”
Morningstar Mission has set a goal of $20,000 to be raised from the event. Anyone interested in taking part in the walk or corporate sponsors looking to get involved can visit CNOY.org/location/Napanee or call the Mission at 613-354-6355. The start and finish point of the walk is located at 59 Water St. W in Napanee.
Along with Napanee, Coldest Night of the Year walks will take place in communities across Canada on Feb. 23.