Students Participate in Walk to Fight Homelessness 

Alyssa Wilson ~ Assisant News Editor

Photo of volunteers taken by Lorraine Upton. Volunteers from left to right (Olivia Upton, Claire King, Naomi Watkins, Hailey Jones, Bethany Tanner.) 

Volunteerism is at the center of the  University of Lynchburg’s Center for Community Engagement.

This past weekend, students volunteered and participated in The Coldest Night of the Year, a fundraiser for local nonprofit organization, Miriam’s House

Miriam’s House is an organization that helps to house homeless women and their children in an effort to eradicate homelessness in the Greater Lynchburg area and beyond. 

The Coldest Night of the Year is an annual 2K walk event up and down Rivermont Avenue.

The Bonner Leader Program volunteered at the event as cheerleaders for the walkers, holding up signs of encouragement, blowing bubbles and giving out high fives. 

Naomi Watkins, junior and Bonner intern at Miriam’s House has helped to get the event off the ground and into action for the last two years.

“Last year I did a lot of the system work, this year I got to do a lot of hands-on work within the community and interacting with people, which is ultimately where I want to be at Miriam’s House, so it was very fulfilling,” said Watkins. 

Part of Watkins’ job was to assign volunteers to different areas along Rivermont, so that walkers would have consistent direction and encouragement as they braved the cold. 

One of these volunteers was senior Tori Chesney who volunteered with a couple of friends just for fun. 

Chesney had been searching for volunteer opportunities when she came upon Coldest Night of the Year and was struck by its mission, feeling immediately inspired to take a part in the event. 

“I liked that it was raising awareness for homeless people and the struggles they face when it is so cold,” Chesney said. 

Chesney was also surprised by the amount of people not involved in the walk who approached her to ask what was going on. “I was able to relay information to them, but it was something I was not expecting,” she said. 

Miriam’s House is one Alpha Chi Omega sorority’s philanthropy focuses, so a group of members also participated in the event as walkers. 

Freshman Lucy Van Lenten said, “We always try to support them [Miriam’s House] when we can. There were a ton of people there supporting a great cause and it made me happy to see how much of Lynchburg’s community came out to support.”

Although volunteers and walkers alike were bundled up in thick jackets and beanies, Coldest Night of the Year was extremely successful and well-attended by Lynchburg students. 

Miriam’s House has already stated they will be hosting the event again in 2024, although no details have been released yet. 

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