Walk for Warmth helps local families

February 20, 2019

About 15 community members joined together Saturday morning to participate in the 26th annual Walk for Warmth, an approximately two-mile walk to raise funds to help low-income Mason County residents pay their heating bills.

The participants met at Community Church in Ludington to walk a few blocks in the city during about 25-degree weather and to raise awareness about the cause.

Each year Walk for Warmth is run by the nonprofit community action agency FiveCAP, Inc., which serves Mason, Lake, Manistee and Newaygo counties. The organization provides emergency utility assistance, food and other programs to individuals and families in need.

Lisa O’Brien, a FiveCAP community service worker who planned this year’s event, said a Walk for Warmth was also held Saturday in other counties, but donations always stay local.

“All the money raised here today will go to Mason County residents,” O’Brien explained. “(For) each county that FiveCAP has, when they do their Walk for Warmth, all the money raised in that county stays in that county … And (of the) 100 percent raised, 100 percent goes to help the community. There’s no administrative costs involved on our end of it.”

Many of those who participate in the walk each year are employees of Consumers Energy, their family members and friends.

Eric Gustad, Consumers Energy community affairs manager, who walked Saturday, said the company has been partnering with Walk for Warmth for as long as he could remember, and that it’s one of several charitable programs Consumers helps each year.

He said assisting the Walk for Warmth is close to many of the employees’ hearts.

“We recognize by living in the communities that we serve, that there’s at-risk neighbors, at-risk families, and we also recognize that some of the elderly need help,” Gustad said. “We’ve had a really cold winter, and the last few years, we’ve had some really cold snaps, so we recognize giving back and engaging is the right thing to do.”

Consumers’ charitable foundation matches the donations employees raise for the walk, doubling the total contribution amount. If they raise at least 1.5-times the amount they did the year before, the foundation will donate twice as much as the employees raised, tripling the total contribution, Gustad said.

Last year, Consumers employees raised $1,900 for Walk for Warmth in Mason County, so they had to raise at least $2,280 to get the triple donation, according to Gustad. But this year, they didn’t reach that goal; they raised just over $1,100, Gustad said.

Steven Smith Jr., a mechanical engineer and safety consultant at Consumers’ Ludington Pumped Storage Plant, has been heading up the plant’s employee drive to raise money for Walk for Warmth for the last three years. Smith said that although they didn’t reach the $2,280 goal this year, they hope to next year.

“We’ll try to do better next year and reach out more,” Smith said. “(But) it’s been a good event, and it’s always nice to give back to the community.”