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Coldest Night of the Year walk supports local shelter

February 13, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Wendy Gabrek

The Coldest Night of the Year walk, supporting and hosted by Alliston Out of the Cold, will take place on February 22, 2020.

The Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) is a fun, family-friendly walk that raises money for charities serving hungry, homeless, and hurting people in the respective community, with the Alliston walk starting and finishing at Banting Memorial High School’s cafeteria.

The Alliston CNOY event offers a 5/10km route, and a 2km route – with both routes marked with bright CNOY signage, staffed by volunteers, and including rest stops with snacks along the way. 

“This is the first year that Alliston Out of the Cold has participated in the event. As we are becoming more established in the community, and seeing our numbers increase, we are looking to expand our services to include additional programming, including outreach and, ultimately, a year-round shelter,” said Jenifer Pergentile, Alliston Out of the Cold Executive Director. “As such, our operating costs are increasing and we have been looking for ways to go about raising funds that doesn’t rely solely on the incredible generosity of our community members.”

Although everyone is invited to take part, walkers 12 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times.

On event day:

4 p.m.: Registration opens

5 p.m.: Opening Ceremonies

5:15 p.m.: Walk begins (staggered start)

6 p.m.: Registration closes

6 p.m.: Meal service begins

8 p.m.: Route closes, meal service ends

Between 6–8 p.m. a warm, light meal will be served to all walkers and volunteers.

Registration Types:

• Children 0–10: Free to participate (but you’ll need to raise $75 to earn a toque)

• Youth 11–17: Fundraise $75+ to earn your CNOY toque or pay the $25 registration fee

• Adult 18+: Fund raise $150+ to earn a CNOY toque or pay the $25 registration fee

Participants can register to walk on their own, as a member of an existing team or create one of their own, and anyone who reaches their goal or pays the registration fee will receive a 2020 CNOY exclusive toque.

Corporate sponsorship opportunities are also available.

At press time, 91 walkers, 24 teams, and 42 volunteers have helped to raise 36 per cent of the $65,000 goal ($23,602).

“As a first-time charity participant, the organization that runs the CNOY event works very closely with us to help us set realistic goals and work to meet them,” said Pergentile. “Our fundraising committee wanted to see us take home $50,000 from this event, so we aimed high! Blue Sea – the charity organization that runs the CNOY event nation-wide – does take a small amount of the funds raised for administration costs of the event, which includes maintenance of the incredible website, all the signage and support and so, so much more! We are basically handed a fully planned-out event, and just have to pull off the logistics specific to our location. If we reach our goal of $65,000, AOTC will be guaranteed at least $50,000 of those funds, if not more.”

“At the present time this is our major fundraising event planned for the year,” adds Pergentile. “We continue to have our Sponsor-a-Bed program available – check out our website for more info on that – for donors throughout the year, with varying levels of support available to choose from. Anyone not able to participate in person at the event can participate by registering to raise funds and not walk, supporting another participant by sponsoring them on their walk efforts, becoming a corporate sponsor of the event, or making a direct donation to Alliston Out of the Cold.”

“The funds raised will go towards operational costs of the organization, specifically to support our ongoing programming, but also to support our programming under development, and specifically our AOTC Outreach program,” she continued.

The AOTC annual operating budget is approximately $80,000, including costs associated with running and maintaining the shelter and Community Dinner program. Its total budget, including project planning, is $103,000 annually.

Alliston Out of the Cold is a non-profit organization that presently offers two programs during the winter months for people experiencing homelessness and or food insecurity in New Tecumseth and surrounding areas.

Now in its third operating season, AOTC provides safe, warm and welcoming overnight accommodations and meals, during the winter months, while facilitating connection to further resources, services and community.

The shelter program offers emergency overnight stays for men and women over 16, and has 12 beds for individuals who have no alternative place to stay – to get out of the frigid winter temperatures and rest.  

Their second program – AOTC’s daily Community Dinner, served from 5:30–7:30 p.m. – is offered to anyone in need of a warm meal in the community, no questions asked. Men, women, youth and families – all are welcome!

“We provide three meals per day and work to connect guests to community resources for housing, income supports, employment, addiction and mental health services and more,” said Pergentile. “In year one we served 65 guests – 31 local users and five hundred and ninety three individual overnight stays. The Community Dinner program did not exist yet, so meals were served only to shelter guests during shelter hours. The remaining 34 individuals that we accepted were overflow from Barrie Out of the Cold, due to high numbers there, and us not being full – I want to be very clear that these individuals were transported by BOOTC directly to our door, stayed the night at our shelter, and were picked up the next morning and transported BACK to Barrie, by BOOTC.”

In year two, AOTC served 35 guests, all local, and hosted 737 individual overnight stays.

“Guests stayed from one to 120 nights, averaging twenty-one nights, with nearly one thousand meals served at the Community Dinner program for the duration of the operating season,” said Pergentile.

“For year three, we have already met 28 local guests, and have already served nearly 1,000 meals and we are only half way through the season,” she continued.

So, what does the shelter need?

“As we are a part of a very generous community, there is very little that we are in need of, in terms of physical donations. We always ask that people connect with us before dropping anything off, or doing any kind of donation-drive or collection on our behalf, as our needs are quite limited and we have had to turn things away due to space,” said Pergentile. “At the moment our greatest need is for monetary support. People can donate by participating in the Coldest Night of the Year event, or by donating directly to AOTC. Check out our website for the various methods of giving.

“Additionally, as we are in the early planning stages of developing an AOTC Outreach program, there are various aspects of that particular program that we will need support for. The AOTC Outreach Program needs include the purchase of a van or SUV to transport and store items for donation, maintenance and safety of the vehicle, branding and outfitting – including vehicle decals, a power source, onboard storage and heater and cooler for meals, organization and storage for donatable items, monthly fueling for the vehicle and the acquisition of either a rental or permanent storage space to house donated items. Preliminary calculations have estimated start up costs of approximately $10,000 – $20,000 depending on the vehicle expenses and requirements to get it up and running.”

So, why is the AOTC fundraiser called “The Coldest Night of the Year”, and why is it important?

“By walking at dusk, during a cold winter’s night, you’ll feel a hint of the challenge faced by those experiencing homelessness during the winter,” said Pergentile. “By fundraising, you’ll be contributing much-needed money to a charity in your town that is bringing hope and help to people in your community who need support.”

Food insecurity is defined as the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints. It is a serious problem in Canada that negatively impacts physical, mental, and social health, and costs the healthcare system considerably. 

Homelessness describes the situation of an individual without stable, safe, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. It encompasses a range of physical living situations, including those that are unsheltered, emergency sheltered, provisionally accommodated and those at risk of homelessness.   

“In New Tecumseth and Simcoe County, we are in the midst of a housing crisis – the affordability of housing is astronomical and people are a greater risk than every before of experiencing housing issues,” said Pergentile. “For many of our guests it is a combination of multiple risk factors that has led them to access our supports.”

To learn more about the Coldest Night of the Year event in Alliston, visit

For more information about Alliston Out of the Cold, contact Jenifer Pergentile at 705 435-7293 or email

Walkers are encouraged to use the hashtag #cnoy20 leading up to, and during the Coldest Night of the Year 2020 when posting on their social media platforms.

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