By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It’s been 16 straight years, and once again Gate 3:16 is corralling community members to walk along the lakefront to help Oshawa’s needy, and now it could be more important than ever.
Gate 3:16’s annual walkathon on May 7, starting at St. Peter’s Anglican Church (1175 Cedar St.) at 9 a.m., marks one of the main fundraising efforts the organization relies on to keep its doors open.
The drop-in centre supports Oshawa’s homeless and in-need population, many of whom are either on disability benefits or have no other support system to rely on. And according to the centre’s president, the need continues to grow.
“We feel like we’re outgrowing our facility,” says Betty Mann, Gate 3:16’s president.
The centre, which opened in 1990, serves hot meals twice a day, to anywhere between 100 and 130 people daily, as well as providing health care, counselling services, hair dressing and foot care.
The Gate does this without relying on a single government penny.
“We don’t get government support, so we would love to see more businesses being aware of us,” Mann says.
Solely through donations and fundraising efforts, the Gate keeps the doors open and the food cooking. The funds also go toward staff costs – the centre employs three paid staff (the remainder are volunteers) as well as money for general operations.
“We basically rely a lot on our fundraisers, so that’s important to us,” Mann says.
And keeping the Gate operating is essential to those who rely on it, sometimes for the only hot meal they’ll eat all day.
The centre also plays a much more crucial role besides a place for breakfast and lunch.
“When I talk to the people, it means a lot (that) they have a place to go because a lot of them don’t even have family support,” Mann says. “So, the Gate is like a big family, in a sense, for people who have gone fairly regularly. They get to know each other and they learn to support each other too.”
Not only that, but through partnerships with other community agencies and counselling services, the Gate helps users to try and get things back on track.
“People come in feeling pretty hopeless and suicidal and they find a place they belong and they keep going,” Mann says.
The walkathon will consist of a five-kilometre walk, starting at St. Peters, down along the Oshawa Creek trail toward Lakeview Park before circling back.
To participate in the walkathon or to help out, donations will be accepted at the event on May 7. As well, sponsor sheets are available at the Gate, located at 394 Simcoe St. S.
More information can also be found by visiting gate316.com.