BANGOR, Maine — Homeless people who turn to the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter for a place to stay and a warm meal come from all over the region, and that is why the annual Hike for the Homeless starts in more than one community.
“It’s meant to symbolize that people come from different areas,” Dennis Marble, shelter director, said Saturday as the first of four groups of walkers began to arrive at the waterfront, and also that “we’re all in this together.”
Separate hikes began Saturday morning at Hampden Academy, the Cianchette Building in Brewer, Veazie Community School and at Husson University. All reached the waterfront just after 11 a.m.
“It’s great at drawing the communities together,” said Bruce Reddy, a Hike for the Homeless committee member. “There aren’t very many events that do that.”
Brewer had the largest group of walkers with 500, followed by Hampden with 375, Bangor with 290 and 75 from Veazie, said Laura Cushing, hike coordinator.
“Last year, we had 1,100 so we’re a couple hundred over that,” she said of the number of walkers.
The first group of hikers came from the south and looked like a sea of purple.
Blaze McQuate, a freshman at Hampden Academy, was one of the first to arrive. He said he was moved to get involved after he wrote a report about homelessness, but added it also was a fun thing to do with his friends.
“I learned how many of the people who die of starvation are homeless,” he said. “That was pretty sad.”
McQuate said he donated $10 to the cause and definitely will participate again next year.
Hampden senior Neil Ashford said he has been participating for the last four years because “everyone was doing it.”
“It’s a positive experience,” he said. “I get to help out the community and get my walk on.”
Brewer High School senior Calvin Michaud said he joined the hike because others on the track team urged him to, and because “it’s a good cause. I contributed $10.”
Millinocket resident Melissa Crocco, who pushed her 1-year-old son, Geo, in a stroller, said she got involved through her husband, Emilio, who works at Target in Bangor.
She said she was moved by the generosity of people. The Target walkers, who all wore bright red T-shirts, gathered at Dunkin’ Donuts on Saturday morning. When a woman came up to ask what was going on, she gave a donation once she heard, Crocco said.
While the Hampden group walked into Bangor, two Hampden Academy students filmed them for their modern media class. Ken Prosser, an intern for the town, filmed them for the Hampden Happenings, a town newsletter.
Senior Ken Wagner and junior Hillary Seeking said the project included interviews with students about why they got involved.
They learned the hike is “a way to support the people who are less fortunate than us, help out the community and to help create school spirit,” Wagner said.
The hike raised around $50,000 last year, and Cushing said she hopes the amount is more this year.
“We collected $18,000 on the day of the hike, but that doesn’t include the sponsors or our online donations,” she said Sunday afternoon.
The Bangor Area Homeless Shelter has a new website, bangorareashelter.org, that allows people to help out year-round.
All the money raised at the local walk supports the homeless right here in Greater Bangor, Marble said.