© SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN
Andrea Nalesso, client, and John Bennett, executive director, are excited about the Coldest Night of the Year walk on Saturday night. The fundraising event will benefit Harvest House P.E.I. The walk begins and ends at Central Christian Church Hall, 223 Kent St., Charlottetown.
Andrea Nalesso will never forget the night he walked down University Avenue feeling sad, frightened and alone.
"I was down in the dumps, probably hung over, thinking about my rent and my other debts here and there," says the Charlottetown construction worker, who made the life-changing trek in October 2015.
As he walked by Harvest House P.E.I., also known as Solomon's Porch, he noticed that one of the regulars was standing at the door waving to him.
"She looked strangely familiar. I waved back but carried on with my walk."
On his way back home, his curiosity got the best of him. He wanted to see where the friendliness was coming from.
"I pulled open the door and was instantly greeted by people. I saw that they were having a Bible study. They invited me to pull up a chair and join in. So I did."
Afterwards, there was coffee and conversation.
"Everyone was smiling. I felt comfortable, like I had come to a good place. I also felt safe."
The encouragement and friendship he received from the staff and volunteers and clients was "amazing".
So, every day he just kept coming back.
"It's a family atmosphere. Everyone is kind, friendly," says Nalesso, who set about learning money management skills and how to fill out income tax forms through their life skills program.
"If you have any questions, they will find the answers for you, within their power."
With the information and support from others he received, he started making positive changes in his own life.
"My last binge was in November. I thank God every day (for my health)."
Nalesso is one of hundreds of people who has benefited from Harvest House P.E.I. Now he's encouraging Island residents to bundle up and raise cold, hard cash for The Coldest Night of the Year walk.
The family-friendly winter fundraising event for P.E.I.'s less fortunate residents will take place in Charlottetown Saturday, Feb. 20.
And Nalesso hopes that people will help.
"Money raised from the walk helps people that are hurting, hungry, homeless and in need. It will also help maintain the drop-in centre. It's a place where people can go to get away from the cold."
Funds raised through the Coldest Night of the Year will benefit clients at a time of the year known historically for low levels of giving, says executive director John Bennett.
He's hoping to raise $40,000 for their work with hurting people in P.E.I.
This is the fourth year that Harvest House has taken part in the walk. An expected 300 walkers, in 20 teams, including staff and friends of Harvest House P.E.I., are involved in this year's event.
"The enthusiasm, the energy and excitement is amazing," said Bennett. "People come for their first year and they have such an incredible experience that they wonder why they haven't come before. It's wonderful to see churches and communities working together."