By Michael Szabo
Think about the coldest you’ve ever been. What’d it feel like? How long were you outside?
For me, it was a February in Ottawa a year after I’d moved here. It was a ten minute walk back from drinks with friends in the Market and it was one of those nights where it’s so cold, your eyes hurt.
Now, imagine feeling that bone chilling cold for two or three hours straight while you walk around town looking for somewhere warm. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a hypothetical, but a very real feeling for some in Ottawa.
Thankfully, places like the Ottawa Mission have committed themselves to helping out the people in our city who need it most, during some of the coldest times of the year. The Mission has been providing food, shelter, and other services to Ottawa’s homeless population since 1906. On average, the Mission will serve over 1300 meals per day and provide somewhere to sleep for roughly 230 people each night. During the winter, the demand for these services vastly increases. Overflow beds fill the Chapel and calls go out to the shelters around town to see if they have space for patron’s who need a warm place to stay for the night. Meeting the winter demands on the Mission requires both human, in the form of its many staff and volunteers, and financial resources.
This is where The Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) comes in. As the Mission’s largest fundraising event, it is a crucial part of its efforts to make sure they have enough of those resources available to provide food, shelter, guidance, and counselling to its patrons each and every day. The event takes place in over 100 communities across Canada, raising money and awareness for local charities serving hungry, homeless and hurting families and youth.
CNOY is a simple, but powerful concept: bring the Ottawa community together for a 2, 5, or 10km walk around town in the dead of winter and have us get a small taste of some the challenges the city’s homeless population faces.
“I think it’s an eye opening experience for everyone who takes part… one of the rest stops on the walk is actually the Ottawa Mission, so teams get to see exactly where we are and where some of our patrons spend each night,” said Leila Jakubinek, the Mission’s Community Engagement and Events Coordinator.
The fundraising goal for the Mission is $100,000 and they’re about half way to reaching it. There’s still time to register a team for the walk, so you can rally a group and generate some support for the Mission and bring it closer to reaching its goal.
If the February cold is a little too much for you (and I don’t blame you – this city is frigid), you can always donate to the Mission’s CNOY team. A small donation goes a long way towards keeping Mission patrons fed, warm, counseled, and cared for.
So, I’ll just leave you with this: think about the coldest you’ve ever been one more time. Now think about how awesome it felt when you stepped into your home and the heat was blaring. The Ottawa Mission and CNOY are part of making that feeling a reality for some of the Ottawans who have it the hardest.
The Coldest Night of the Year is scheduled for February 24 with walks beginning at 5:15pm at Ottawa City Hall. Register your team online or make a donation to Ottawa Mission’s team. For more details on the route and administration of the event, visit the Ottawa Mission’s Coldest Night of the Year page.