On February 25th, Red Deer will join 114 other cities in Canada as they host a national fundraiser, The Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY). Thousands of Canadians will bundle up, walk, and raise funds and awareness for the homeless and the hurting.
Laura is one of them. She volunteers at The Mustard Seed in Red Deer, every Wednesday serving meals. “It isn’t what people think it’s just people who need that little extra help.” She says there are too many stereotypes.
“Nobody is greater or lesser than everybody. We all deserve a chance in life. We all deserve love. We all deserve hope.”
Laura also works as an educational assistant at St. Theresa of Avila school. It’s one of several schools in the area, which relies on the lunch program provided by The Mustard Seed Red Deer location. 300 lunches are prepared and delivered by volunteers to students in Red Deer, who might otherwise go without. “When you see those kids eat that lunch, it’s amazing to see,” says Laura. “We are in all but three schools, so about 90 percent of kids here need help,” adds Byron Bradley, Director of Central Alberta.
All funds raised will ensure more lunches will be served and more dinners. Every week about 400 dinners are served to families. Byron adds “We have some kids as young as 10, who come here for a meal on their own. It’s important work. It takes a whole community to care for the most vulnerable”.
CNOY is a 2, 5, or 10 kilometre walk. The walk begins at The Mustard Seed and continues by other service providers that offer meals, housing projects and an outreach clinic. The route is intentional. It’s meant to give walkers a “bird eyes view in the lives of the overlooked, ignored and unimportant.”
Laura believes it is important. She’s busy raising money and awareness. Volunteering has enriched her life. She says the people she has met with just need a little help. “They’re amazing people. The smiles, the kindness, the thankfulness, it opens another piece of your heart.”