As winter drags on, Woolwich Community Services and residents in the township are getting set for the Coldest Night of the Year fundraising walk.
It’s the biggest such event on WCS’ calendar, says community engagement coordinator Nancy Lucier.
“It’s turned into a really great community annual event. What’s really neat about this particular fundraiser is that it involves all the community – we’re all coming out together and people are coming together to support those in our community who are in need,” said Lucier.
Funds raised during the walk will go towards supporting programs WCS provides throughout the year, including the food bank, the family violence prevention program, rent support and the Christmas Goodwill food-hamper program.
While the agency doesn’t necessarily see a higher number of support requests during extreme cold snaps, long winter seasons could mean higher bills for some families, said executive director Kelly Christie.
“Their heating bill might be higher, so they might need some food assistance, that type of thing,” Christie said.
“We do the hampers all year round and our numbers have increased through the whole pandemic years, and will continue because of the economic situation. So this fundraiser is really going to be beneficial to our agency and our community,” Christie added.
This year CNOY will take place on February 25, starting with check-in at 4 p.m. Following opening remarks, at 5 p.m. participants can opt for either a 2.5-kilometre or 5-km route starting at Woodside Bible Fellowship in Elmira. A light meal will be served at 6 p.m. All adult participants must sign an online waiver, while all child participants must have a paper waiver signed by their parent or guardian.
WCS’ goal this year is to raise $50,000. It’s well on its way, having raised more than $35,000 so far. There has been a good response from the community, Lucier said.
“It shows what a strong community we have, everybody looking out for each other. So we have a cross-section from our business sponsors to our teams and walkers, and everybody has an important role in this event. It’s really exciting actually to be in contact with each of our sponsors and walkers and teams because what we’re hearing from them is the messages ‘we’re here for you,’” she said.
Gloria Martin is leading the Menno Walkers team from the Elmira Mennonite Church.
“It’s in our community and it’s serving people who are experiencing hurt, hunger and homelessness, and Woolwich Community Services does so much in our community,” Martin said.
The group of 20 walkers has already raised $2,000 towards their $3,000 goal.
“Our youth are really getting on board with this. And it’s not that we have a large youth group, but they’re getting the excitement of other people as well. And there are some of us that have been doing it every year. And so they’re always excited about this worthwhile fundraising event for Woolwich Community Services.”
Those taking part in the walk will see the elements that those experiencing homelessness face daily, Christie said
“It’s just for a few hours, and it’s a fun few hours. You’re walking with friends on cleared off sidewalks, you’re not sleeping under a tree or in a small lean-to or what have you, because there are people that need the support,” she said.
The Wilmot Family Resource Centre, which provides social services to the western half of Wellesley Township, will also be holding a CNOY walk, hoping to raise $35,000. Their 2- and 5-km routes will start and end at the New Hamburg Community Centre.