Whenever I’m driving south on Interstate 95 in Bangor and take my Hammond Street exit, I am aware of the possibility, no matter what the weather or what the season, of there being people off to my right among the trees on a little knoll under a blue tarp.
More recently, during these tough winter months, after entering Hammond Street and glancing again to my right, I’ve noticed another blue tarp in the trees now bordering the southbound I-95 entrance.
I know who these people are, as do you, and I know why it is so important that we, as a community, continue to support the work of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter and all the organizations and institutions that look after those among us who lack some of the basic necessities of life, including food and shelter.
Which brings me to my most recent communication from Dennis Marble, executive director of the homeless shelter, who wrote to remind us that although it’s been a long, cold winter, spring is bound to come and with it one of the most important fundraisers for the shelter that not only houses, but also feeds those in need.
Members of the shelter’s hike committee are making plans for its 16th annual Hike for the Homeless on Saturday, April 9, designating gathering places for the start of the hike at Eastern Maine Healthcare in Brewer, Hampden Academy, Husson University in Bangor and Veazie Community School.
The Hike Committee has set a very ambitious goal of drawing 2,000 hikers to this event to help raise $60,000 for the Shelter, Dennis wrote.
Reviewing the report we published about last year’s hike, however, it should be noted the 2010 hike set new fundraising and participation records with $50,680 raised and attracting 1,125 participants.
Those were very impressive figures, considering the 2009 hike raised $34,000 and attracted just 610 hikers.
So the 2011 Hike Committee is to be commended for raising its sights in terms of dollars and participants and, as a most important byproduct, increasing awareness of and advocacy for the homeless.
Dennis announced that corporate sponsors already on board include the Bangor Daily News, Trans-Tech Industries of Brewer, WLBZ Newscenter 2 and Target.
Whited Ford and Hollywood Slots are among the early providers of donations and raffle prizes, and administrators of the gathering places had to sign on early as well.
Dennis wants readers to know there are many ways to participate in and support this major fundraiser “from securing sponsors and hiking to supporting a friend or family member to simply making a donation,” he wrote.
This year, thanks to an in-kind donation from Sutherland-Weston Marketing Communications, Dennis wrote, the shelter now has a Web site, www.bangorareashelter.org, that you can visit, and click on 2011 Hike for the Homeless for more information or to register.
Bangor Area Homeless shelter is also on Facebook, he added, so you can visit that site as well.
Much has changed since Dennis became the shelter’s director in 1996 when funding from state and federal homeless programs covered half of its operating costs. Today, according to BDN’s hike story last year, that funding covers just 26 percent of the facility’s operating costs, which is why community support is so essential.
And while the Hike helps raise money for the shelter, its message is also one of stimulating “thoughts and discussions” about the plight of the homeless which, it is hoped, will lead in the long term to “changes to public policy, more focused and effective support service mechanisms, and the development of more affordable housing,” Dennis wrote.
While I am sure I will continue to see those blue tarps along the interstate exits and entrances, I am very proud of the effort our community makes in providing shelter and food for the homeless among us and hope they take advantage of what Bangor makes available to them.
On behalf of those the shelter serves and those who support its work, Dennis offers his sincere thanks for all you do.
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; firstname.lastname@example.org; 990-8288.