Persons, places and things: Coldest Night of the Year creates a warm feeling

Some members of the “Step by step we make a difference” team are pictured after their walk for the “Coldest Night of the Year” fundraiser in Clinton Feb. 24.

By Barb Arland-Fye

Sister Kathy Holland, OSF, emailed details about an event she wanted to promote in The Catholic Messenger that intrigued me. She was leading a team of walkers for the Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) event to raise funds to serve and support vulnerable families and individuals.

Her dedication in working toward affordable housing for everyone in need in the Clinton region inspires me. Could I join her walking team for the Feb. 24 walk along the Missi­ssippi River in Clinton? “Yes,” she responded. Our “warm-up” exercise leading to the 5K/2K walk was securing donations to benefit programs in the Clinton YWCA Empowerment Center, which provides case management and access to supportive services for families and individuals experiencing poverty, homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.

“… I’ll be walking an hour or two at most — a little walk, really — but it’s a big deal for the people we are supporting,” Sister Kathy, a Clinton Franciscan, wrote in her CNOY social media post. “Do you know the average homeless person walks ten miles a day! I think I can walk for an hour or two at the most to assist in fundraising for this event.”


The walk would combine two passions of mine — affordable housing for people in need of it and walking outdoors. What I had not anticipated was an opportunity to reunite with longtime friends and to gain some new friends, all gifts from God!

On the late afternoon of Feb. 24 I arrived at the Clinton YWCA, the starting and ending point for the walk, to sign in and to get together with my “Step by step we make a difference”  team. Teammates Marlys and Jackie are faithful readers of The Catholic Messenger, so it felt like we were longtime friends as we chatted. Sister Marilyn Shea is another friend, a Clinton Franciscan.

While waiting to check in for the walk, I spotted my old friends Randy and Chris, a married couple whom I had not seen in some time. We ran together in road races in Clinton, back in the day! As we headed toward the riverfront, Randy reminded me that we were on a road race route. Memories flashed in my mind of runners (including me) giving their all in the final 50 yards toward the finish line. I need to apply the energy I mustered back then to the ongoing work of ensuring affordable housing for the many people who do not have it now.

The three of us strolled leisurely along the 5K route, enjoying the scenery and catching up on each other’s lives. My husband Steve was unable to join us for the walk, but I promised the four of us would get together soon.

We returned to the YWCA as the setting sun’s waning glow streaked the sky. My fingers stung a bit from our hour-long walk, a brief reminder of the experience of people without homes who live in the shadows of the city to avoid calling attention to themselves.

Homemade soup and conversation followed the walk. The following evening, Sister Kathy sent an email thanking all of us for making a difference for people who are homeless or near homeless in Clinton and Jackson counties. She was grateful for the privilege of calling each of us her friend and being able to introduce us to each other. One of her favorite things to do, she said, is to “share my friends with other friends!”

CNOY was not the coldest night the year; I still feel the warmth of friendship and the common bond we share in striving to make this world a better place, as God calls us to do. And we still have time to raise more funds, until March 31!

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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