Walkers will brave the elements and take a chilly stroll through downtown Napanee for a good cause on Feb. 24 during the annual Coldest Night of the Year.
Once again the charitable event will raise funds for Morningstar Mission.
Departing from Trinity United Church, participants will trudge through town in the middle of winter in a show of solidarity to those experiencing homelessness. Walkers are encouraged to collect pledges from friends and family, which in turn will go towards the Mission to assist those experiencing homelessness.
While an afternoon stroll in mid-summer would be much more comfortable, Coldest Night of the Year chose February for good reason.
“It gives a glimpse to what people deal with for hours, days, months, years of their lives,” Lynda Carney, one of the volunteers helping to run the event explains. “We just do this for one evening and people are outside and often uncomfortable for two, two-and-a-half hours. I think it serves as a reminder as to why we are walking.”
Organizers have set a goal of $100,000, which would put them just about on par with last year when they brought in just over $102,000. Last year saw 237 walkers with 44 teams take part in the walk, which consists of a 2.5 km or 5 km route. Next month’s walk will follow the same path as last year, ending where it starts at Trinity United.
To register as an individual, part of a team or as a volunteer for the day of the event, visit https://cnoy.org/location/napanee. The event will start at 4 p.m. with a sign in and welcome, followed by the walk getting underway at 5 p.m. At 6 p.m. a light meal will be served in the basement of the church. The option to fundraise offsite is also available for those unable to make it on Feb. 24.
Though the evening is meant to have a fun, light-hearted atmosphere, the money it brings in is critical-this year in particular.
“Our warming centre has doubled,” said Kevin Alkenbrack, executive director of Morningstar Mission. “We’ve had to relocate our food bank off site so that we can use that space to double our occupancy for the warming centre. We now have 16 planned pods but we can go as high as 18. Last night (Jan. 10) we slept 20.”
The warming centre opened for the winter season on Nov. 26 and by Nov. 29 it was clear the demand would be so great that they’d have to expand their operation. Money raised from Coldest Night of the Year will help offset the costs of having to do that, as well as supporting the many other programs they offer for those facing poverty.
“What makes Morningstar unique in the world of homelessness is that generally in other locations you would see a shelter like the warming centre be the only thing that they do,” said Alkenbrack. “What makes Morningstar unique is we also host community dinners. We also do income taxes. And food bank. And clothing. Then we do our county wide take out meal program. We’re doing 50,000 meals a year. 700 tax returns. We’re doing 1,200 food boxes a year. The funds are more important than ever that we are ready to face the demand.”
Since opening at the end of November, Alkenbrack says the warming centre has provided shelter for 55 unique individuals. Though it hasn’t happened yet, the possibility exists that they may soon have to turn people away if too many show up on a given night.
“The success of Coldest Night of the Year means that we can step into the gaps quicker. It also allows the ability to continue to serve those people who are in poverty,” said Alkenbrack.