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Residents step up and out for Coldest Night of the Year

Residents are invited to experience a small taste of life on the streets during the Coldest Night of the Year on Saturday (Feb. 23).

Held simultaneously in communities across Canada, the Coldest Night of the Year walk is a fundraising event aimed at supporting the homeless, hungry and hurting through awareness and raising money for the local charities that support them. There are 40 communities participating in the walk in 2013.

For the second year, Nanaimo’s Island Crisis Care Society will be the recipient of local walk proceeds. So far, 176 participants forming 35 teams have signed up, with just under 50 per cent of the goal ($30,000) raised already. Last year, approximately $18,000 was raised.

But with less than a week to go to raise the additional $15,000, more donations are welcome, and it’s never too late to register, said Nanaimo location director Michelle Authier.

“I’m seeing five to 10 new walkers register every day right now. This is what we call the ‘cardiac arrest’ of Coldest Night of the Year, where it’s a mass pandemonium of people registering and fundraising the last nine to 10 days,” she said.

“We’re pretty encouraged by that, we’ve already surpassed where we were at this time last year.”

The Island Crisis Care Society has operated since 1989 and runs three crisis stabilization homes in Nanaimo and Parksville, a supportive recovery home and Samaritan House, Nanaimo’s only homeless shelter for women.

In addition to applying the money raised to general operating expenses, the society is hoping to put the focus on developing Samaritan House. Currently, Samaritan House has 20 beds, which includes four transition suites. Usage fluctuates based on the time of year and weather, but there are 13 or 14 beds currently in use and the transition suites are almost full, Authier said.

The society plans to renovate the facility with money raised in order to gain more space, not beds, for diversifying the kind of services it can offer. Walk participants can choose to walk or run a two-, five- or 10-kilometre route. Registration begins at 4 p.m. and the walk starts at 5 p.m. It is a family-friendly event.

“The goal is to experience a little bit of what it’s like to be out in the cold and what it’s like to be homeless,” Authier said.

The Care Society is in need of volunteers to help out on the night of the walk, particularly as route marshals.

For more information about Coldest Night of the Year, please visit www.coldestnightoftheyear.org. To find out more about volunteering please call Authier at 250-616-1984.

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