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Eleven members from three Anglican churches participated in the Coldest Night of the Year Walk. They were among 65 fundraising teams that collected over $162,000 to help the homeless in Stratford. The  Anglican Churches team raised over $5,300.

By Ven. Tanya Phibbs

Saturday, February 26 was a beautiful winter day - cold and bright. Late afternoon, as the sun began its downward journey through the western sky, was indeed the perfect time for a walk around Lake Victoria in Stratford, also known as the Avon River. The brisk breeze was a bit chilly but not as much as the knowledge there are those in our communities who would be sleeping outside on a night when the temperature dipped to -9C.

Eleven members from the three Anglican Churches in Stratford – St. Stephen’s, St. Paul’s and St. James’ – came together to form a fundraising team for the local Coldest Night of the Year Walk in Stratford. This was a wonderful opportunity to spend time chatting with each other while supporting the wider community.

An extra incentive to do so this year was that one of the host organizations was the new Stratford Connection Centre, housed at St. Paul’s church.

This new center provides a place-based intervention combining the efforts of professional service providers and well-trained volunteers to begin or continue a wellness journey for individuals experiencing significant challenges, including but not limited to poverty, homelessness, addictions and mental health, all in one location in downtown Stratford. This includes access to laundry facilities, showers, washrooms, food, social connection, emotional support, information and referrals as well as assistance with document readiness. In addition to the important role St. Paul’s has as the host of Connection Centre, the volunteers will include members from all three Anglican churches in the city.

The other organization that the Coldest Night Walk supported was Shelterlink, a local organization that assists homeless youth and youth at risk of becoming homeless. Shelterlink does more than just assist in finding youth a warm safe bed — they actively work with youth to assist them in their pursuits, through education and skills development supports.

In a small city such as Stratford, where homelessness tends to be hidden more deeply than in larger cities, it is easy to overlook the difficult reality that there are many without safe housing. In Stratford, thanks to the work of 65 teams made up of 395 walkers, over $162,000 was raised for these two important organizations, smashing the Walk goal of $126,000. The Stratford Anglican Churches team was the fifth highest fundraising team in the city Walk, raising over $5,300.

The Stratford Anglican Churches walkers are grateful to the members of the churches who sponsored us in the walk and to our captain, Wade Phibbs, for his regular updates and constant cheerleading. A chance to live out our baptismal vow to “seek and serve Christ in all persons”, together with Anglican siblings in Christ, was a blessing for each of the participants.

We look forward to next year!