Michigan winters can oftentimes be long and dreary. This is especially true for individuals who don’t have the means to pay utility bills and keep their homes warm. As February was Keep Michigan Warm Month, many Community Action Agencies around the state hosted their annual Walk For Warmth campaigns. The goal was to help raise awareness for the importance of energy assistance. The staff, faculty, and students at Ross Medical Education Center in Port Huron showed their support by participating in the local Blue Water Community Action Agency event.
Approximately 120 participants bundled up for an outdoor hike on the cold morning of February 29 to help raise funds that will assist families in paying energy bills. The participants gathered pledges and then set out for a two-mile walk in 20° weather. Cars honked and folks cheered out of their car windows as the walkers made their way from the Blue Water Community Action building to the Port Huron Township Hall. Back at the BWCAA building, volunteers were preparing a warm breakfast for the participants. There was also a basket raffle and a 50/50 drawing. Local businesses donated baskets with fun themes that were raffled off after breakfast. The Ross Medical Port Huron staff worked with the Clinton Township corporate office staff to put together a Get Well basket to donate to the raffle. The basket was filled with items such as herbal tea, a cozy blanket, honey, chicken soup, lotion, fuzzy socks, and a gift card to a local pharmacy.
One of the individuals who helps run the Blue Water Community Action Agency of Port Huron is Fiscal Director Karen Lake. Karen is really enthusiastic and motivated to carry out the mission of the organization. She runs two programs and she has the opportunity to interact with the clients on a daily basis. She stated, “It’s just amazing to see individuals so extremely grateful. I always see this sense of relief on their face like, ‘Oh, that’s taken care of, and now I have one less thing to worry about.’ It’s just a nice feeling to be able to see that and to know that you made such an impact in someone’s life.”
Karen works really hard to try to get the word out as she believes the BWCAA is the county’s best kept secret. She said, “The work I do is really crucial because of the large need. A lot of lower-income individuals don’t have the resources for what to do or where to go or even how to fight for themselves. So it is key that we get the word out and let the community know we are here to be of service to them during hard times. They don’t have to go at it alone. We’re here to fight with them.”
Laura Jerlecki, Financial Aid Student Support Representative at the Port Huron campus is grateful to be part of such a wonderful cause every year. She stated, “I look forward to participating in this event each year. Having a warm, welcoming home is essential for a person’s health and well-being. It is gratifying to know that we can help provide comfort and peace of mind to families in need.”
When asked why this walk was meaningful to her, Laura said, “We’ve all been in a situation where, for whatever reason, our power went out. It’s so frustrating and scary as it is, but to imagine that you’re not just waiting for DTE to clear some trees or something, but it’s off because you couldn’t pay your bills is another story. I can’t imagine my kids being. My husband works for the city and I hear stories all the time about residents having their power shut off. It really hits close to home.”
The BWCAA Walk For Warmth event was a success for everyone. Almost $14,000 was raised for St. Clair County, and one hundred percent of those funds will go toward assisting needy families who have received utility shut off notices.
More information on the Blue Water Community Action Agency event can be found at https://www.bwcaa.org.