Walking for warmth

WALK: Sophia Lewis, 7, walks the track at the Ferris State University Student Recreation center on Saturday during Mid Michigan Community Action’s Walk for Warmth event. Many chose to walk the track indoors instead of braving the cold temperatures on Saturday. (Pioneer photo/Miranda Roberts)

AWARENESS: Walkers who took to the slippery, slushy and snow-filled sidewalks on Saturday during the Walk for Warmth event raised awareness about people who struggle to heat their homes in Mecosta and Osceola County. (Pioneer photo/Miranda Roberts)

BIG RAPIDS – Michigan winters can be brutal for families who struggle to heat their homes.

 On Saturday, more than 100 people gathered for the 23rd annual Walk for Warmth at Ferris State University’s Student Recreation Center, raising funds for Mid Michigan Community Action’s Emergency Utility Assistance Program in Mecosta and Osceola counties.

“We operate many grant-funded programs for those who are income eligible, but not everybody fits that eligibility,” said Jill Sutton, MMCA executive director. “Walk for Warmth helps us help other people who kind of fall in between the cracks, are still low-income and are trying to make it work, but just can’t make ends meet. It’s tough. People lose jobs or just can’t make ends meet with minimum wage jobs and need that extra boost to get them through.”

MMCA staff were impressed with this year’s Walk for Warmth turnout of students, families and individuals.

WALK: Sophia Lewis, 7, walks the track at the Ferris State University Student Recreation center on Saturday during Mid Michigan Community Action’s Walk for Warmth event. Many chose to walk the track indoors instead of braving the cold temperatures on Saturday. (Pioneer photo/Miranda Roberts)

WALK: Sophia Lewis, 7, walks the track at the Ferris State University Student Recreation center on Saturday during Mid Michigan Community Action’s Walk for Warmth event. Many chose to walk the track indoors instead of braving the cold temperatures on Saturday. (Pioneer photo/Miranda Roberts)

“It has been a very cold winter,” Sutton said. “I think people are realizing there are people in need and this is a simple way to come out for a couple hours and have fun, raise some money and help a neighbor.”

For 7-year-old Sophia Lewis, who attended the event with her grandmother, Betty Snyder, of Morley, volunteering is nothing new.

“She wanted to put all of her piggy bank money in to help,” Snyder said, adding that Lewis raised $171 for the cause. “She loves giving back. There are people out there who are having a hard time, including us, but giving back and helping someone else makes you feel better.”

A group of Consumers Energy employees also participated in the walk, with Consumers Energy matching all funds raised by its employees 2 to 1.

Sam Gomez and Jonathan Sutton were among the employees who chose to brave the cold and walk for warmth.

“There are people who are struggling to pay for heat bills, especially with this type of winter,” Jonathan said. “It’s a little cold, but we are out there to help people heat their homes.”

Jonathan’s wife, Rachel, who works at the Department of Human Services in Big Rapids, and son, Seth, also took part in the event.

For Rachel, who has some clients who rely on services provided by agencies such as MMCA, being involved in the walk was important.

“If they don’t have the funding, our clients go without and that’s not good, especially for those who are elderly or have young children in their homes,” Rachel said.

Last year, MMCA helped 348 households in Mecosta, Osceola, Bay, Clare, Gladwin and Midland through the Emergency Utility Assistance Program. Of these households, 256 were occupied by children. Others aided included senior citizens, veterans and people with disabilities.

MMCA accepts donations for Walk for Warmth throughout the year on its website, mmcaa.org.

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Posted by Miranda Roberts

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