BIG STONE GAP — Sunday is the annual walkathon hosted by Mountain Empire Older Citizens Inc., based in Big Stone Gap and serving the needs of elderly Southwest Virginia residents in Wise, Scott and Lee counties, and the city of Norton, for MEOC's Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly.
Sunday's walkathon is the largest single fundraising tool MEOC uses for the Emergency Fuel Fund and will begin at 2 p.m. at Union High School in Big Stone Gap.
MEOC Executive Director Michael Wampler called this year's event one of the most important, urgent walkathons ever. This past winter season, MEOC assisted with a record 1,656 heat-related emergencies, reporting more older citizens than ever are finding themselves in desperate need of assistance keeping their homes warm, safe and secure.
This past winter's record-setting sub-zero temperatures, coupled with relentless snow and ice storms, caused electric bills to soar rapidly and heat resources such as coal, gas, oil and wood to disappear quickly, Wampler said.
For the past 38 years the region's citizens of all ages have gathered on the first Sunday in May for the annual Walkathon fundraiser to help older residents trapped in weather-related emergency situations. The fund is essentially tapped out by the conclusion of the Emergency Fuel Fund season that runs from October through the end of March each year.
Wampler said without the support and dedication of businesses, churches, civic groups, schools and individuals across the service area, the fund could not be replenished each year.
This past season's 1,656 emergency situations was an increase of 133 over the previous winter season. The Emergency Fuel Fund assists older people with low incomes who are in desperate need and who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves in a bind where they don't have the money to pay home heating bills.
Often, older citizens have high prescription drug and health care expenses and struggle to pay for bare necessities on small, fixed incomes. A death or illness in the family can also cause an emergency financial situation.
During this past season MEOC spent a record $258,057 helping to keep elderly citizens warm, safe and secure in their own homes. Every cent MEOC raises for the Emergency Fuel Fund is spent for that purpose.
The Emergency Fuel Fund depends solely on donations, contributions and fundraising events. The program receives no federal or state funding and is supported solely by the communities it serves.
This year's Walkathon goal is $165,000. A celebration picnic is held immediately following the Walkathon and everyone who raises at least $100 is awarded a T-shirt. To participate as a walker, contact MEOC to get a pledge form.
Organizations and businesses contributing $5,000 or more will have their business or group name and logo printed on the back of Walkathon T-shirts, be linked on MEOC's website and Facebook, and can receive free advertising on MEOC buses. It is never too late to get involved as a walker or as a sponsor.
Contributions can also be sent any time to MEOC, P.O. Box 888, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219. Designate contributions for the EFF/Walkathon program. In case of inclement weather on May 4, a rain date would be May 18. If in doubt about the May 4 date of the Walkathon, call MEOC. There will be staff at the MEOC offices taking phone calls on Walkathon day.
For more information about how to get involved in this year's Walkathon or how to become a community sponsor, call MEOC at (276) 523-4202 or 1-800-252-6362.comments powered by Disqus