Community

Bringing warmth to Coldest Night

Salvation Army frontline worker Desiree Towne (left), family and community Ministries advocate Connie McGonigal and shelter manager Michael Emery will be taking part in the Coldest Night of the Year walk on Saturday to raise money for programs offered at the Caring Place. - Colleen Flanagan
Salvation Army frontline worker Desiree Towne (left), family and community Ministries advocate Connie McGonigal and shelter manager Michael Emery will be taking part in the Coldest Night of the Year walk on Saturday to raise money for programs offered at the Caring Place.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan

Saturday will be the Coldest Night of the Year in Maple Ridge.

That’s not a weather report, but rather an event organized by the Salvation Army to highlight the plight of those who are forced by their economic circumstances to live outdoors.

“There are people in Maple Ridge whose reality is, every night they sleep on the streets,” said Amelia Norrie, spokesperson for the Salvation Army Caring Place.

The Coldest Night of the Year is a fundraiser for various charities and will be held on Saturday in 23 cities across Canada.

There will be 5 km and 10 km routes through the Maple Ridge downtown area, and both will start and end at the Caring Place, located at 22188 Lougheed Highway.

Registration opens at 4 p.m. Opening ceremonies will be held at 5 p.m. and the walk begins for both distances at 5:15 p.m. Between 6 and 8 p.m. a light, warm meal will be served to all walkers and volunteers.

Organizers are budgeting an hour for participants to complete the 5 km walk, and two hours for the 10 km. However, it is not a race or timed event, so walkers can go at their own pace.

There will be rest stops on the walks, with some shelter, heat, a washroom, snacks and warm drinks.

The goal is to raise $25,000 for Caring Place programs – and much of it will buy groceries.

The Salvation Army serves 10,000 meals every month to 600 clients through its community meal program. It also provides emergency shelter in 25 beds, and has a Cold Wet Weather program that allows it to accommodate an addition 15 people. School supplies, summer camps and Christmas hampers are some of the other offerings from the Caring Place.

The March 2011 Homeless Count found that there were 102 homeless people living in the community.

Already some $9,000 has been committed by the 14 teams taking part locally. People can sign up in teams, or individuals can sign up to be part of the Caring Place Team.

The top team so far is the Ridge Racers, captained by Jaana Mikkola, who have raised $2,932.

Walkers are asked to bring good walking shoes or boots, a hat or toque, gloves, scarf and a reflective wind-breaking jacket and sweater.

Participants are asked to park across the street from the Caring Place, in the lot at the Maple Ridge Baptist Church.

While the chilly temperature of Maple Ridge won’t provide the same jarring dose of reality as the freezing night in Thunder Bay, Ont., another Coldest Night city, Norrie said the event will still be a social event, a fundraiser and an exercise in awareness.

Norrie said it is an excellent complement to the Amazing Adventure Race fundraiser, which runs in June.

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