More than 35 teams and 150 walkers helped Project Share reach its $50,000 goal to support homelessness prevention services in Niagara Falls.
The charity held its eighth Coldest Night of the Year fundraising and awareness walk Saturday.
The event was held in communities across Canada to support charity partners, such as Project Share, that provide essential programs to people experiencing homelessness, hurt and hunger. Each year across the country, more than 10,000 people participate.
The monetary donations raised by the Niagara Falls event will stay in the city.
Just like last February, this year’s event encouraged participants to walk in small groups within their own neighbourhoods.
“It is a two- or five-kilometre winter walk,” said Lauren Lewitzky, fundraising events co-ordinator for Project Share. “In the past, before the pandemic, we used to do it all together, right from Saint Paul (Catholic High School) … and now we’ve been doing a walk in your neighbourhood for the past two years, which has gone really well.”
This year’s event again included a 12-hour challenge that saw Matt Cuthbert, executive director of Niagara Furniture Bank, sitting in the cold for 12 hours outside Project Share to bring stakeholders together and shine a light on homelessness in the community.
Project Share staff and board members, local dignitaries, social service agencies and other key stakeholders joined him throughout the day.
Last year, Cuthbert accepted a challenge from Marty Misener of Open Arms Mission to follow along his lead by spending 12 hours outside in the cold to get a feeling of what it’s like to be homeless. Cuthbert decided to do it again this year.
“Last year was a very good learning experience,” he said, noting the body temperature adjustments his body went through. “It was –17 last year, this year is a little nicer. My body temperature went from 99.1 degrees down to 94.2 when I took it at the end. I was in hypothermia.”
Cuthbert said when he went into his truck to go home, normal temperatures felt “extremely hot.”
He said he burned more than 3,000 calories during the 12-hour period, as he did not eat or drink during the event.
Cuthbert said the goal of what he’s doing is to create a conversation about homelessness.
“If somebody reads this, they have a conversation around the dinner table of what they can do (to help), whether it’s volunteering at a local agency, donating money, donating food or donating time.”
He said it’s important to have community leaders join him for periods throughout the day.
“Having these community leaders come out and hear their perspective of what they’re doing from their level gives me a better understanding what I can do from my level,” said Cuthbert, adding he sits on the boards of four local charities.
“It’s all about what we can do to support the community, what we can do to do a better job and work with our other community leaders, together, as a collaboration.”
Lincoln McGuire, a youngster who is driven to help people less fortunate in Niagara, was one of the people to join Cuthbert, Saturday.
On his 10th birthday last year, the St. Catharines resident gave up his birthday money to provide gift cards to homeless people. That led to the creation of his Lincoln Care Kits program, which has seen him fill backpacks with essential items that were handed out to the homeless, as well as backpacks filled with school supplies and snacks for kids in need.
“There’s a lot more people losing their houses and jobs,” said Lincoln. “Some people are not getting food and it’s not the way that it used to be — everything is a lot more expensive now.”