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A little walk to help a big problem

Published on February 21, 2015

By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario - All ages bundled up for the Coldest Night of the Year walk in support of the Agape Centre in Cornwall on Saturday.

More than 100 people in over 20 teams braved the cold, trekking up to 10-kilomtetres to help raise over $15,000 for the soup kitchen/thrift store/food bank.

It was about paying forward for 77-year-old Sheila Bourget and her son Ray Bourget.

“When a person has had everything: a home, food, warmth…don’t you think it’s time to give some back?” said Sheila.

The Bourgets took to the downtown streets for a 2-kilometre walk, which started at the Agape on Fifth Street and looped back around.

Sheila credited her strolls at the Benson Centre for giving her the stamina to complete the snowy terrain route.

The Coldest Night of the Year helps participants understand the experience of surviving in poverty during a cold Canadian winter in more than 80 communities across Canada.

Apple Hill’s Stephanie Massia, 23, and Elmer’s Alicia Rempkens, 19, walked with the Seaway Valley Community Health Centre team.

Both are students at St. Lawrence College in the social service worker program.

“I hope people realize that walking in the cold sucks, and people shouldn’t have to do that,” said Massia.

“We’re here to raise money and awareness for people who have to do this on a regular basis.”

Rempkens added: “No social situation is going to get solved unless the community comes together.”

Alyssa Blais, executive director of the Agape, said the walk, in its second year locally, raises an exceptional amount of awareness on poverty issues as well as much-needed funds to help counterbalance Christmas to spring when donations are routinely down.

“I’m hoping next year will be bigger,” said Blais. “We want this to be the Agape Centre’s signature event.”

She added: “When you think about what we do, it’s important to remember that there are a lot people in need. It’s fun to do a gala and those kinds of events, but it really doesn’t bring us closer to the issue. By walking outside in the cold you realize the struggles others face who live this way.”

In 2014, 98 walkers braved frigid temperatures, helping to raise $13,000.

The Agape Centre provides 175,000 food bank meals, 35,000 soup kitchen meals, over $30,000 worth of clothing to families, and responds to 12,000 emergency food requests on a yearly basis.