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‘Poverty is not going away’: CEO says fundraiser supports, highlights needs of people in crisis

Coldest Night of the Year 2019 participants Abigail Burbidge, Marie Burbidge, Connie Sheppard, Pastor Bob Burbidge, Emma Porter and Lily Porter together made up the Snow Angels group and represented the Wolfville Ridge Baptist Church. They were among the approximately 475 people who took part in the Open Arms fundraiser this year.
Coldest Night of the Year 2019 participants Abigail Burbidge, Marie Burbidge, Connie Sheppard, Pastor Bob Burbidge, Emma Porter and Lily Porter together made up the Snow Angels group and represented the Wolfville Ridge Baptist Church. They were among the approximately 475 people who took part in the Open Arms fundraiser this year. - Sara Ericsson
KENTVILLE, N.S. —

Emma and Lily Porter agree walking 10 kilometres is the least they can do to help raise awareness for those less fortunate in Kings County.

The two walked on Feb. 23 as part of the Snow Angels group, which also included Abigail Burbidge, Marie Burbidge, Connie Sheppard and Pastor Bob Burbidge of the Wolfville Ridge Baptist Church.

“We come back each year because we want to help out – it’s a small thing you can do to take the time and help raise money for these people,” said Emma Porter.

It was a beautiful day of sunshine but still a fairly cold night for participants who walked five to 10 kilometres in support of Coldest Night of the Year – the biggest annual fundraiser for Kentville mission organization Open Arms.

John Andrew is the mission's chief executive officer and was on hand to welcome walkers back to the event’s headquarters at the Kentville Fire Hall.

He said the event continues to be important year after year not only due to the money it raises for the organization, but how it shows people what it’s like to spend hours at a time outside in the freezing cold.

“Poverty is not going away, and is unfortunately encroaching into places it wasn’t felt very much before. Inflation raises prices of everything – gas, taxes, all costs. Everything but the amount people on limited incomes earn. So as this happens, more people than ever are finding themselves in crisis through no fault of their own,” he said.

Open Arms chief executive officer John Andrew smiles with his core group of volunteers – many people he says have experienced hardships themselves – who helped make the event possible.
Open Arms chief executive officer John Andrew smiles with his core group of volunteers – many people he says have experienced hardships themselves – who helped make the event possible.

This was the event’s seventh year, and drew around 475 participants. Andrew said while fundraising numbers are not yet finalized, the event typically raises between $75,000 and $80,000 each year.

He said that total makes up 40 per cent of the mission’s operating costs and goes towards its furniture bank, drop-in centres, shelter program and other programming.

“We would not be able to do what we do – be there for people who find themselves in crisis, and just need some help to get back on their feet – without this continued support,” he said.

Andrew noted the many people who volunteer at the event annually who have themselves experienced hardship. He said it helps that those who help make the event a reality know themselves why the support is so needed for the mission – because they are living proof poverty is a real problem within Kings County.

“I think we’re good at showing people that poverty affects everyone – whether a person with an addiction or a senior on a very limited pension – because we have people who volunteer who’ve been through it themselves,” he said.

Lily Porter said she and her group are already looking forward to taking part and fundraising for the event again next year because they enjoy doing their part to help those less fortunate.

“There are people who don’t have shelter, or anything, and this is a little thing we’re doing that helps in a big way,” she said.

Sara.Ericsson@kingscountynews.ca

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