By John DeCoste
To say the Coldest Night of the Year walk Feb. 23 in Kentville was a success might be the understatement of the year.
The one-day event, held as a fundraiser for Open Arms (which has outlets in Kentville and Berwick) and the Inn From the Cold Shelter, ended up raising $49, 082, the seventh-best total among all participants the Canada-wide event, thanks to the help of 2,376 donors, second behind only Kitchener-Waterloo, the birthplace of the Coldest Night initiative.
The fact that the rest of the top-10 included Toronto, Edmonton, Sudbury, Ottawa, Oshawa, Guelph, Newmarket and Halifax (which came in 10th), all much larger areas in terms of population, says a lot for the scope of the accomplishment.
“We’re blown away,” Open Arms managing director John Andrew said Saturday afternoon, when the Valley total stood at just over $47,000.
“I would have been more than pleased with $20,000 – and even if we hadn’t raised a penny from it, it still would have been worth it in terms of publicity and raising awareness.”
Asked what this means to Open Arms, a drop-in centre for the homeless, disadvantaged and marginalized in the local area, Andrew replied, “We will realize 55 per cent of our annual budget from this one event.
“With the help of this fundraiser, we’ve achieved sustainability, but more than that, this is about building capacity” in the group’s pursuit of a permanent facility.
The reality, he said, is that a small group has been making Open Arms happen for a long time.
“Over the past couple of years, our volunteer base has been growing, but we haven’t had the funds,” he added. “That’s what makes this so great, and so exciting.”
The group knows they are providing a needed service, he said, but this type of reaction shows them the community is with them.
“We can take this as a mandate from the community. They‘re saying they know homelessness is an issue and they realize it’s an issue. That’s very humbling,” Andrew said.
At present, Open Arms rents space at the rear of the Cornwallis Inn, “but it’s really small (about 20 by 20), especially given we can have 80 people there for a meal.”
That’s incredibly important, he added.
“We have a sense of community. We’re fortunate that way. We can’t judge or marginalize people simply because they’re homeless or disadvantaged or down on their luck for whatever reason.”
Andrew was really pleased at the turnout, both in terms of teams and donors, not to mention the 281 walkers and the “truly generous” response.
“We like to think this is a generous area, and this proves it,“ Andrew said.
The average donation was $20, which works out to 20,000 people donating $20 each.
“We’re more pleased with that than anything,” he said.
Andrew confirmed the intention was to hold the Coldest Night event again next year, and look at hopefully making it an annual event from now on.
By the numbers:
Total raised - $49,082
Where we rank with funds raised: Seventh across Canada
Number of teams – 41
Number of walkers – 281
Where we rank with walkers: Third across Canada
Number of donors: 2,376