The annual Hike for the Homeless will happen on Saturday, April 28, and the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter needs your legs to get walking.
Last year, 1,240 walkers participated, raising $35,000. That was down from the $45,000 raised in 2010, but Executive Director Dennis Marble was pleased for the wide range of people involved. That kind of participation is what gets more people talking. This year, for instance, Bangor High School, Penobscot Job Corps, Hermon High School, and the town of Hermon are sending walker groups.
“They’re embracing the event,” Marble said. “And they’re inviting us in to speak. Bangor High School Faculty Talent Night was dedicated to the hike. The sophomore class at Hampden Academy raised money through a dance and sent some of it to the hike. It’s really been embraced.”
The event began years ago as a Mount Katahdin hike, where participants strapped on backpacks and symbolically emulated a hard day on the streets. It was a great idea, but with too few involved, and it wasn’t in the public eye. Eventually, it moved to the streets of the Greater Bangor area, and has since grown to be very visible, bringing lots of attention to the homeless plight. And that’s needed, Marble says, because the shelter relies on public support.
“The more people we get involved in the cause, the more private support we get,” Marble said. “One follows the other.”
Just 38 percent of the shelter’s funding is from government sources. The vast majority comes from local sources, from people in the community who want to help. Whether it’s a big check from a local business or a $5 donation from someone giving however he can, the people make it happen. Without that support, the shelter couldn’t have a Day Program, serve a noontime meal, or offer many of the services it does; it would be an overnight emergency shelter only, and a barebones operation.
“The hike is maybe the most visible example of the community support that holds this place together,” Marble said.
Nobody chooses to be homeless; they become such for reasons. But Marble noted that the reasons aren’t nearly as important as the homelessness.
“The people of this region have demonstrated, for as long as I’ve worked here, that where people who are homeless originated from is almost irrelevant — it’s secondary,” he said. “The presenting issue is you have people in need.”
The hike will consist of four routes departing different locations and converging on the Bangor Waterfront: Bangor from Husson University, Brewer from the Cianchette Building, Hampden from Hampden Academy, and Hermon from the Sports Arena. The event is always lots of fun, with various groups engaging in friendly competition — rival school groups or sports teams, for example, or competing businesses. But there’s no real competition, as everyone is working towards the same “win.”
Hikers can register on the Hike for the Homeless Web site. The shelter suggests a $10 donation for a walker, but anyone is welcome to joint the Hike. They’re also encouraged to seek sponsorships from those who aren’t walking.
Marble wants to remind all walkers to observe safety first. The routes are along public roads with heavy traffic, so be aware of your surroundings.
BAHS is also selling raffle tickets at $5 per ticket or $10 for three. After the hike ends on the waterfront, drawings will be held for a wide range of fantastic prizes donated by area businesses, including tickets and coach fare to a Red Sox game, a kayak, a 51-inch TV, and loads more.
To register as a walker or to purchase raffle tickets, visit www.HikingForTheHomeless.org.