BANGOR, Maine — On a near-perfect weather day like Saturday, they probably would have been out walking anyway. So, the four friends decided, why not walk and help raise money for a cause?
University of Maine students Laura Anderson, Erica Vanderwerf and Kelley Ruhl, and Ruhl’s younger sister Hannah, a senior at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln, were four of more than 600 participants in Saturday’s 14th Hike for the Homeless, an event that raises money for the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter.
“I heard about it on the radio and I thought it would be a really good cause,” said Anderson, a UMaine sophomore from Monmouth. “We’re all pretty active and we probably would have been walking outside today anyway, so it might as well be for a good cause.”
The event started at 10 a.m. as groups of hikers in Veazie and Hampden began a trek to the Bangor Waterfront. Groups in Bangor and Brewer left at 10:30 a.m. Everyone converged near the Sea Dog restaurant after the hike for a cookout and raffle.
Starting points were at Hampden Academy, Husson University in Bangor, the Cianchette Building in Brewer and Veazie Community School.
Groups of about 150 hikers each from Bangor and Brewer arrived first, followed by the Veazie group of 50 to 100 and finally Hampden, which had the largest group with 260. Hampden traditionally brings the most hikers, said Dennis Marble, the director of the shelter.
Marble said the event had raised $11,000 as of Friday. Donations were still coming in Saturday in the form of team fundraising and raffle contest entries. This year’s goal was $40,000, although Marble said he wasn’t sure the shelter would quite get there. Last year’s event raised $30,000.
No new figures were available Sunday afternoon.
Donations were optional. Anderson, Vanderwerf and the Ruhl sisters chipped in $5 apiece.
A group of a dozen employees from the Muddy Rudder restaurant in Brewer donated about $400 this year. Kathy Giddings, one of the restaurant’s managers, said the group typically has been one of the quickest to arrive at the waterfront. This year, the Muddy Rudder team members slowed down to take their time, but were passed by another team, Giddings noted with a grimace and a smile.
“It’s a community event, and Muddy Rudder strives to be involved in the community as much as we can,” Giddings said.
The funds go directly to the shelter’s operating costs, Marble said. The shelter’s operating costs are about $490,000 a year.
“Personally, to see 600 people come together in this park, makes all of us feel we’re not doing this in a vacuum,” said Marble, who hiked from Husson with the Bangor group. “It’s got to make people who are homeless feel like people care about them. It raises the topic to the point where, maybe we can talk about some public policy issues to a broader audience and get more people engaged, especially young people.”
Last year 447 different individuals spent 11,240 nights at the shelter, Marble said, and an additional 2,000 use the shelter’s day programs every year.
Thirty-one of the shelter’s 33 beds were taken Friday night, he added.