April 23rd, 2024

Coldest Night of the Year events help those in need

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 27, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Community members gather to register for Streets Alive Mission's 13th annual of Coldest Night of the Year event over the weekend Downtown Festival Square.

With two organizations holding Coldest Night of the Year on Saturday, it doubled the community’s opportunities to participate.

Streets Alive held its 13th Coldest Night of the Year run downtown while Woods Homes held its Coldest Night of the Year at Henderson Park for the second year.

Both events were successful.

Streets Alive chief development officer Jennifer Lepko, shared where the donations go towards from the Coldest Night of the Year event.

“All the money raised at the Coldest Night of the Year goes directly to our kind of frontline services. Really helping those people who are on the streets, those people who are forgotten in many cases or don’t have anything. We have outreach teams which then go out and make sure that people are doing well, get them to where they need to be, move them along,” said Lepko on Saturday.

Wood’s Homes fund development coordinator Carrie Dahl also described what the donations are utilized for.

“All of the proceeds from this event will go directly to our emergency use shelter and provide the necessary items that kids in crisis will need – anything from hygiene items to bedding, to pajamas to food, anything that they could possibly need,” said Dahl.

Coldest Night of the Year is done throughout Canada in approximately 190 different locations with different organizations hosting it.

Lepko said the event has an impact Canada-wide.

“It’s an amazing, amazing event. It’s really neat to be a piece of something that’s happening across the country to really make a difference. And all of the locations across the country are walking for the hungry, the hurting and the homeless.

“This is about bringing hope. So just having people out, just shows that our community is amazing and willing to step up and make a change because it’s going to take all of us together working to help make these changes,” she said.

Lepko said Streets Alive had approximately 220 walkers with 32 teams and 40 volunteers and were almost at 85 per cent of their goal which was to raise $70,000. Dahl voiced similar success for Woods Homes.

“This outcome is amazing. We had over 100 people register online and many more just walked into register. We hit our goal for over 100 walkers and over 15 teams. So, we have officially doubled last year’s numbers and are still growing,” said Dahl.

Dahl said for its Coldest Night of the Year walk Woods Homes had a partnership with Nikka Yuko Gardens and with the Lethbridge Bulls baseball organization.

“We just want everybody to come out and see what Woods Homes is about. Take some steps and see what it’s like to actually have to be out in the cold without a place to go.

“And also we just want the community to know that Woods Homes is here. A big part of this event for us is the awareness component. So families know that if ever they’re facing a crisis, they know where to turn,” she said.

Lepko said he supports provided to the homeless can have change someone’s life.

Streets Alive has a salon that homeless individuals can access. She shared the impact it had with a man experience homelessness and how a haircut motivated him to make a change.

“He stood up and looked in the mirror. And he says, ‘you know what? I matter I’m going to detox.’ Just the chance to restore some dignity in his life made him make a choice that was going to be better for him and to restore his life and make changes.

“The work that we do is so important. And it really is about bringing people to a point where they feel that they can make a change in their life and, step away from the substances,” said Lepko.

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