Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Coldest Night of the Year brings in record-high donations for YWCA

Coldest Night of the Year brings in record-high donations for YWCA

More than 160 people took part in the virtual event and raised a total of more than $57,000 — far more than any previous year.

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Maybe it was people looking for activities or maybe it was the pandemic highlighting Regina’s vulnerable populations — whatever the case, Melissa Coomber-Bendtsen is amazed to see this year’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser break records.

Coldest Night of the Year is an annual event held across the country to raise money for non-profit organizations working with people struggling with poverty and homelessness.

For the last six years, YWCA Regina has used the event to fundraise for My Aunt’s Place, the city’s only homeless shelter for women and children. This year the event was one more in a long line of fundraisers to move online during the pandemic.

But the lack of an in-person event didn’t stop people from participating, and whether it was an extra dose of boredom or an extra dose of charity — or both — Coomber-Bendtsen, CEO of YWCA Regina, couldn’t be happier.

Most years, the event draws around 100 participants and raises around $20,000 for the shelter. This year the organization had set a goal of $25,000.

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By Saturday afternoon, more than 160 participants had signed up and raised a total of more than $57,000, easily doubling the goal and raising far more than any previous year.

“It’s very encouraging. My Aunt’s Place and our work in outreach specifically … is something that we’re continuously looking for additional funding to do,” Coomber-Bendtsen said.

“The need is greater and greater all of the time, and so this will have a huge impact on our ability to be able to make sure that women can be rehoused or that we can even divert women from shelters.”

The YWCA has seen a growing demand for these services throughout the pandemic as other services like drop-in centres have had to shut down and counselling has become more difficult to access.

Coomber-Bendtsen doesn’t expect to see this demand drop off again when the pandemic draws to a close.

“We’ll see lots of people who were maybe just on the brink of homelessness or crisis actually fall into that, with the amount of people who’ve lost their jobs and some of the economic issues that have happened because of the pandemic,” she said.

With the money raised through Coldest Night of the Year, Coomber-Bendtsen said the organization hopes to hire another staff member for its outreach team, which has not been able to keep up with the high demand. Having an extra staff member would allow the YWCA to do more frontline outreach, helping women before they reach a point of crisis and connecting those in need with the proper community supports.

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