Pembroke – The Grind depends on the generosity of community organizations, businesses and individuals to provide a wide range of services to the homeless and once again that support was evident when more than $105,000 was raised  Saturday in the Coldest Night of the Year Walk.

“We’re very pleased with the results,” Jerry Novack, executive director, said after the walk. “We had set an ambitious goal this year of $100,000 and it just all came together in the end. It was just amazing.”

And the event lived up to its name. While it may not have been the coldest night of the year this winter, it was around -14 C when about 200 walkers left the parking lot at First Baptist Church at five o’clock following a route through downtown Pembroke and into a residential area east of downtown. 

The walk attracted people from all walks of life and various religious denominations. Taking part as well were MP Cheryl Gallant, MPP John Yakabuski and his wife, Vicky, and Mayor Ron Gervais.

This year’s walk was the most successful in the agency’s history which depends solely on donations to fund its half-million dollar operating budget.

“We started off at about $50,000 (first year) so this is the most we’ve ever raised,” Mr. Novack said. “Last year our goal was $80,000 and we raised $86,000. This year, Deacon Adrian (Chaput) said we’re going for a hundred and with the community support it was amazing.”

The funds are not only important, but essential to keeping the doors open to provide important services to a growing segment of the population.

“We don’t receive any sustainable government funding,” he said. “It is totally run on donations.”

The walk is the main fundraising event of the year. Other donations come through third party events, the faith community and regular donors who believe in a need to help the homeless

The Grind operates with a paid staff of five, including a cleaner, and the help of a lot of volunteers.

Currently, about 120 meals are served daily and during the winter months an overnight program is offered to get people in and out of the frigid temperatures.

In addition to the paid staff and volunteers, three students from the Social Services Program at Algonquin College are on placements at The Grind, providing a big boost. Other services offered include a weekly visit by a doctor, a weekly visit by Ontario Works and visits by Mental Health workers who come two days a week.

“We are just surrounded with a lot of good community support,” Mr. Novack said.

The Grind also operates a transition house for men.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Mr. Novack said.

The Grind started in about 2006 with youth groups. Then The Grind Coffee House opened downtown in 2015 and as their requirements changed and grew, the service was relocated to the old Victoria Street fire hall four years ago.

Mr. Novack said it was overwhelming to see the support received Saturday.

“And it was coming from all areas of our community,” he said.” It just goes to show that the community believes in what we do here and the work that’s being done by our volunteers and staff.”

While many people walked on their own with pledges, there several groups that raised a lot of money, including a team from Calvary Baptist Church which raised over $11,000.

The Grind provides a variety of services, often in partnership with other community organizations and agencies, to ensure the needs of marginalized and at-risk community members are addressed to the extent donations from individuals, organizations, businesses and fundraising events permits.