Step-by-step help

Walk for Warmth raises $8,000 for low-income families in county

OSCEOLA COUNTY – Some residents in Osceola County will sleep in warmth after volunteers raised almost $8,000 at the 21st annual Walk for Warmth in Reed City.

Sixty-six walkers came together to experience what many low-income families feel when they are forced to survive in the cold. Families, church groups, friends, pets and even a state senator met Saturday at Reed City High School and took a mile walk around the town bundled up and holding signs to raise awareness among city residents.

Father Loc Trinh of St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Reed City walked with a group of 11 members from his St. Philip and St. Anne who participate in the event every year.

“We know a lot of people are living without heat,” Trinh said. “This is a great thing for us to do.”

To raise money for the event, members of the group sought donations from friends, family and coworkers. One St. Philip congregation member, Crissy Decator, proudly raised $157.40.

Walk for Warmth is a statewide fundraiser sponsored by Mid Michigan Community Action Agency. Many services offered by the organization require individuals to qualify by having a low income but the funds raised through Walk for Warmth do not have any income qualifications for distribution.

MMCAA outreach coordinator Lisa Ruttle said individuals may have a steady income, but a sudden need drains their bank account and they are left without sufficient funds to pay for heating their house.

“Health issues come up and people have all those extra costs and they are unable to get fuel,” Ruttle said. “That’s where these funds come in.”

The event began in 1986 when Community Action Agency director Tom Kurtz wanted to empathize with families who could not afford to heat their homes in the winter. He decided to walk around his hometown for 24 hours in the February weather to bring awareness of what families were going through. Today the walk takes place yearly in Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Mecosta, Midland and Osceola counties. Though the courses have shortened since Kurtz first walk, the walks still accomplish the same goal.

All six counties raised $32,851 on Saturday and Ruttle said donations will continue to come in the weeks following the walk, to help MMCA meet its goal of raising $100,000 this year.

One hundred percent of the money raised in each county Saturday will go towards assisting with heat and utility payments for residents of that specific county.

The money is used for any heat-related need, including purchasing wood or propane fuel, paying past-due electric bills and repairing broken furnaces. Depending on the need, assistance can vary from $500 to $2,000 per family or individual.

Funds raised through Walk for Warmth can be used immediately to help residents.

Families needing heat assistance can call the Osceola County Mid Michigan Community Action office at (231) 791-7079.