Walk for Homelessness Draws “Amazing” Response
Prince George, B.C. – The turnout for the local Coldest Night of the Year walk, Canada’s unofficial Walk for Homelessness, was excellent. The fact this was the very first year the walk has been held in Prince George made the turnout nothing less than phenomenal.
The Coldest Night of the Year is a family-friendly walking event that raises funds for the hungry, homeless and hurting right across Canada. It is operated by Blue Sea Philanthropy, a CRA-registered charity with its home office in Kitchener, Ontario. Each walk is operated by a local, community-based registered charity. Walks in Canadian communities have raised over $12 million since 2011.
Saturday evening’s inaugural walk in Prince George was co-hosted and organized by AWAC and St. Giles Presbyterian Church. AWAC Director Connie Abe says “Elda (Elda Egan, event co-director at St. Giles) had contacted me because she was down in Vancouver last year and Vancouver had a Coldest Night of the Year walk that she participated in. And so this year she thought it would be a fantastic idea to get it happening in Prince George.”
“She heard of our Housing First program so she contacted me to see if we wanted to band together to create the event, and that’s how it happened, we hooked up and got the ball rolling.” And Abe says it all came together in a very short period of time. “Honestly, we started mid-December. She contacted me mid-December and from there on it was, o.k. let’s do it. So it came together quickly.”
And it certainly proved very successful. A total of 159 walkers and 20-plus teams took part, raising a little over $27,000, just below the fundraising goal of $28,000.
Abe says she was astounded by the turnout on Saturday. “I’m absolutely amazed,” she says “I’m amazed and just grateful for everybody that’s come out to show their support.” She says word about the event was spread “through social media, through talking to friends, other agencies, word of mouth….just letting people know that this is happening. That’s how we got it out.”
As noted earlier the Coldest Night of the Year walks across the country fall under the auspices of Blue Sea Philanthropy. Walks were held in 113 locations on Saturday and they involved:
The national fundraising goal was $4 million and $4,021,704 was raised, including $459,167 on Saturday alone.
Connie Abe says the money raised here, as at walk locations across the country, “goes to the organization called the Coldest Night of the Year” and then they distribute it to the selected hosts of the walk. So they distribute it to my agency, AWAC, as well as St. Giles Presbyterian Church.”
She says the funds raised are sent to the head office in Ontario and they distribute it back here “because they’re the ones that issue all the tax receipts.”
Abe says “30 % (of monies raised) goes to the agency and then the rest is distributed to the agencies that are hosting it (the walk). So 30% goes to the agency and 70 % comes back.”
Just to clarify Elda Egan says “Coldest Night of the Year is run by Blue Sea Philanthropy, it’s a charitable organization, so they cover all the overhead but they’re not making a profit. And so then all of the money, other than any of the overhead, stays in the local community.” She adds “and it depends how much money is raised, too. If more money is raised then they keep less. All they’re doing is covering the overhead.”
She says the 70 percent which comes back to Prince George “is split 75% AWAC to this year, 25% to St. Giles Benevolent Fund.”
Asked if the second Coldest Night of the Year walk for the homeless and hungry will be held next year Connie Abe says “oh absolutely. It was a huge success and given the short time we had for preparation this year, it can only mean that next year’s walk will be even more successful.”