Fundraiser offers a glimpse into life of homelessness

On Feb. 21st citizens across the country will participate in an awareness event and fundraiser known as the Coldest Night Of the Year (CNOY), organized in Red Deer through Loaves and Fishes.

The goal of the event is to form 20 teams with between seven and eight members each, with the hope of raising $2,000 per team to be donated to Loaves and Fishes.

“We want people to focus on what it feels like to be homeless and cold, and that it could be any one of us. We really, really need people to join. We haven’t been getting a good response yet and have been looking for awareness and support for the teams,” said Loaves and Fishes Executive Director Halina Jarvis.

“It happens across the country. It’s cool to know that everybody is taking off at the same time and on the same day. The purpose of it is of course to raise funds to support Loaves and Fishes and our programs. It’s also to let people experience a tiny piece of homelessness, just for a little while.”

Supporters will gather at Loaves and Fishes to depart for either a 2 km, 5 km or 10 km walk in the elements. People who don’t have enough for a team can join another by visiting www.coldestnightoftheyear.org and registering for their location.

“This is about giving people the awareness of what being homeless is like. We are really desperate for funds to keep all of our programs going so that we can help these folks get warm and get off the street for a while. We provide them with supper and support but we can’t do that without the funding,” Jarvis said.

Loaves and Fishes offers a variety of programs from crisis trauma assistance to supports for addictions and abuse of all categories. They are a registered non-profit charity and therefore require funds raised from events such as CNOY to carry on the programs.

Loaves and Fishes does community outreach, which means they will take people in and direct them to the organization that can best address that person’s issues. They also accompany people to doctor appointments, hospitals, courts or other errands that might be difficult for some to do or manage alone.

“The outreach is a big thing for a lot of folks because they’re scared, or don’t know what to do, or simply don’t understand their situation because of mental health issues. They need that support,” Jarvis said.

“We deal with a lot of crisis stuff here – that’s where we shine. We are here in the evenings and we have someone here who can see who’s hurting or who’s new. People can come see our volunteer Sheila and they know her and look to her to help them get the assistance they need, or look to her to connect them to the right agency they need. The crisis help is really what we deal with in the evenings and mostly, it’s families who come in with young kids that just don’t know what to do.”

Without the support of fundraising events like CNOY, the outreach program doesn’t operate successfully. To join the CNOY fundraiser, people can phone Loaves and Fishes, go to the non-profit’s web site or Google ‘CNOY’ and register at the parent site for the Coldest Night Of the Year events.

The event will start with a brief Zumba exercise. Donations and funds will be collected on the evening of.

“What we need is support, support and support to keep us afloat. We’re confident it will happen, because Red Deer is very generous,” said Jarvis.

“We want people to come out and support us in our fundraisers. We always welcome volunteers, because they’re a great support for us. We’re taking in volunteers all the time; it’s always a need.”

kmendonsa@reddeereexpress.com

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