Driven by the sense that homelessness in Northumberland County is increasing, and more people are living without shelter, this year’s organizers of Coldest Night of the Year are calling on the community to make a difference in the lives the county’s most vulnerable residents.
On Feb. 22, Cobourg and Port Hope will join 145 communities across Canada to raise awareness and donations for local charities that help people who are hungry, homeless and hurting. Locally, all money raised will stay in the community, directly funding Green Wood Coalition’s street outreach, which delivers crisis and ongoing support to individuals who struggle with poverty, homelessness, mental illness and addiction.
Aiming to reach this year’s goal of $50,000, local co-chairs Judy Hone and Phil Redford are reaching out to businesses, industry, service clubs, social agencies, churches and schools asking them to identify team captains — one or two individuals within their organizations — who can inspire co-workers and friends to join the walk and raise money.
“It’s such an easy and small way to make a positive thing happen,” Hone says, “such an easy way to spread hope.
“Imagine, if each team captain finds just five people to raise $150 each, they’re well on their way to raising $1,000. It’s not hard, and they’re taking part in a fun, social, really electric event. When you’re out there doing something for your community, it feels good.”
Over the past year, Green Wood Coalition has responded to the growing visibility of homelessness and individuals struggling with mental health crises and addiction by concentrating more of its outreach activities on the streets of Cobourg, but with no additional funding. The Port Hope-based charity reaches out to people wherever they find them — in frigid bus shelters or huddled in church alcoves — connecting them with services while providing ongoing support so they’re not alone.
“Faced with this daily desperation,” says Green Wood Community Director David Sheffield, “we have no choice but to act, to provide the care and compassion each individual deserves. To make a difference in people’s lives, you have to believe in the value of each human being.”
So given the seriousness of their task, Hone and Redford plan to do everything possible — right up to the eve of the walk — to meet and even exceed this year’s goal.
“We get to do the walk and go back to our nice warm homes,” says Redford. “We’re walking for people who don’t have that option.”
The walk-a-thon begins and ends at Port Hope High School, and walkers can choose to follow a 2 km or 5 km loop. Registration opens at 4:00 p.m. on the day of the event, when walkers will receive their Coldest Night of the Year toques. Hot chili, compliments of local businesses, is served after the walk. For event details, to register to walk, fundraise, volunteer or pledge, visit: cnoy.org/location/porthope.