A walk for Cloverdale

Organizers of the upcoming Coldest Night of the Year event say the walk-a-thon will help chart a course for new community kitchen.

Snow falls in Cloverdale

Hosts of the Cloverdale Community Kitchen urge supporters to join the upcoming Coldest Night of the Year campaign.

It’s part of a national campaign taking place on the last Saturday in February – on average, the coldest night of the year in Canada – to raise money and awareness for local charities assisting homeless people.

More than 60 charities organized walks in their neighbourhoods last year, including the Cloverdale Community Kitchen. In Cloverdale, 300 walkers raised $64,000, a feat that coincided with the kitchen’s official launch.

The commercial-grade kitchen – constructed at Pacific Community Church after an ambitious fundraising campaign – is home to three existing programs assisting Cloverdale’s less fortunate. Pacific Community Church runs the Monday night cafe, while Cloverdale Christian Fellowship puts on a Wednesday night meal. And on Thursdays at noon, a hot lunch is served up by members of the Cloverdale Presbyterian Church.

This year’s walk-a-thon goal is to raise $70,000.

“It’s a huge jump,” says Jim Heuving, executive pastor and event planner for the Coldest Night of the Year walk. He also leads the Cloverdale Community Kitchen team, which is in the process of hiring a kitchen director to oversee existing programs and liaise with local agencies and groups.

“We hope to bring in a full-time coordinator. Someone to really take the kitchen to the next level,” Heuving said. “We want to push as far as we can to get this person going.”

The kitchen was completed a year ago, and now it’s time for someone to expand programs and the facility’s reach into the community.

With a year’s operation under their belt, the team has a handle on what the operating and maintenance costs will be.

The kitchen is also certified, so volunteers can deliver food in a food-safe environment.

Most importantly, however, the team has gained a deeper understanding of the need in the community, with growing numbers turning out for hot meals. These are the near-to-homeless – people on fixed incomes who are struggling to make ends meet.

“We’re seeing families come out and seniors, and senior couples,” Heuving said.

“We’re just seeing the rising impact of an aging population. We’re seeing significant need around there.”

Family meals and seniors meals are a couple of the ideas that he hopes will come to fruition down the road.

With proceeds from last year’s walk, the Cloverdale Community Kitchen hired a consultant who spoke with more than 80 people in the community along with over 20 organizations. There were also three forums on the future direction of the kitchen.

Heuving said the consensus was clear – the community wants the kitchen to have programs that will generate revenue – and provide employment.

“That would be long-term,” Heuving stressed. “We think hiring somebody who can start working on that agenda with more vigour will be critical. It’s just one step at a time.”

Team captains and walkers are needed for the Feb. 21 event, along with 40 to 50 volunteers, plus sponsors.

Participants can sign up for a two-, five- or 10-km walk through downtown Cloverdale. Registration opens at 4 p.m., with the walk beginning at 5:15 p.m. for all distances. The routes close at 8 p.m.

To find out more, visit coldestnightoftheyear.org or call 604-574-4001 ext. 102.

Cloverdale Community Kitchen partners include the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society, Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce, Cloverdale homeless committee, and churches.

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