A charity doing its first Coldest Night of the Year is knocking it out of the park.

Gravenhurst Against Poverty is an organization that was created last year and undertook running a CONY event this year. With a week to go before the frigid nighttime community walk, it has exceeded its fundraising target by over $6,000.

Marlene Buwalda-Liao

Originally trying to raise $20,000, as of Saturday the teams and individuals who have pledged support have donated $26,038.

Marlene Buwalda-Liao is the part-time program manager of G.A.P. and she can’t believe what has happened.

“It’s just been amazing,” she says. “Gravenhurst has been so wonderful and volunteers have come out of the woodwork.”

The Coldest Night of the Year takes place across Canada on February 23rd. In Gravenhurst there will be a 5K walk for most participants, going from the YMCA along Main Street/Muskoka Road to the Tim Horton’s on Talisman Drive and back. Some groups will do the route twice, while those with younger kids can do a half route.

Buwalda-Liao says the CONY organization believes there will be a lot more in the way of donations in the coming week.

“So they are expecting a whole lot more money to come in in the last week,” she confirms. “We have no idea. We are very happy as to how it has worked out.”

G.A.P. as the local organizers will eventually see 70 per cent of the money raised come back to them. Buwalda-Liao says the new charity could sure use it as they have quite a few plans going forward.

“Right now we hold a Tuesday lunch,” she says. “And we give out fresh vegetables and fruits on a Thursday evening and also lean ground beef. So we are hoping to expand, maybe give out dairy and some eggs.  And also we want to start community gardens so we can have something like that.”

Buwalda-Liao says the intent of participating in CONY was as a public relations exercise to get people aware that G.A.P. even existed. But it has become much more than that now.

She agrees that some people are not aware of how many people operate below the poverty line in the area, especially in the quieter winter months.

“People don’t realize how much struggling is going on actually,” she says. “Especially in the housing situations. There is low income because of people who are working on minimum wage that sort of thing. There is a lot of hidden (poverty). In smaller towns, a lot of people will couch surf. So they will stay at friends, that sort of thing.”

For a new entry in the charity landscape, G.A.P. seems to be filling the gap for the needs of people who are at risk in the area of undernourishment, and low or no housing.

If you would like to enter a team for the Coldest Night of the Year – you can click here for more info.