Hundreds of people gathered in the parking lot of Elmira’s Woodside Bible Chapel last Saturday before pouring out for a fundraising walk in a strong showing of community spirit and solidarity for the annual Coldest Night of the Year.
Organizers cheered on walkers before they headed out. [Leah Gerber]
Among those taking part in the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser last Saturday were Justin Anderson and his daughter Rhea. [Leah Gerber]
This was the first year that the annual fundraising event was in full swing again since the pandemic began.
Some 225 walkers in 19 teams, and 34 volunteers raised $79,648 for Woolwich Community Services, well over the $50,000 goal.
Participants had the option to walk a 2.5 or five-kilometre route. Chili provided by Never Enough Thyme was served to the group after the walk.
“It went great. We’re thrilled with the turnout,” said Nancy Lucier, the team engagement coordinator for Woolwich Community Services. “We have so much community support. It’s been exciting to watch this event grow. The fundraising that’s been done by the people in our community, it’s been phenomenal.
“We were watching the numbers grow, even today. Every time we checked, there were more people coming. And we’ve just had such an amazing response.”
WCS executive director Kelly Christie said seeing so many people turn out for the event was exciting.
“People really look forward to it – it is an annual event that they’re putting on their calendar now. This is our fifth year, so we’re really excited that we’ve made that commitment as a community to build this event and have it ongoing annually.”
Christie said funds raised will go towards the work done at Woolwich Community Services. “We’ve been able to support victims of domestic violence, so the family violence prevention program with additional staffing. We do a rent-support program so we can assist a few individuals with some rent costs because in Elmira, it’s $950 for a one-bedroom apartment and you make $800 to $1,100 on Ontario Works or ODSP.
“And then we are able to provide more food support programs. We have a variety of different programs, not just a hamper. And then people can come in and be supported by the staff in the office during that program. Each household that receives support through any of our food programs will get a gift card to Food Basics.”
Justin Anderson and his daughter Rhea Anderson walked with Team Woolwich Walkers. This was their first year attending. Justin said a friend invited them spontaneously to join. “We were going to their house for lunch and they invited us to the event.”
Rhianna Coté and her infant daughter Aurora Jenkins came out for the walk as part of the Mac LLP Team.
“This is a cause we’ve been supporting for years,” she said. “Any way we can help people who are struggling, especially now, it’s important that we do.”
Both Christie and Lucier made a point to thank the community and local businesses that provided support and sponsorship.
“Thank you to everyone who sponsors us. You know, we have so many churches here and different families. You saw all the parents with kids and businesses. Just thank you. We are building the community. We are building a community we want to live in and be proud of,” said Christie.
“Because everybody’s looking out for each other, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Lucier.