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14th annual Walk-A-Mile this weekend

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

It’s almost time for community members to pull on some walking shoes and join the 14th annual Grant County Rescue Mission’s Walk-A-Mile event, which is slated to take place this Saturday.

LeeAnna Smith, director of development at the rescue mission, said the walk is held every year not only to raise money and awareness of the services the Grant County Rescue Mission provides, but it’s also to give the community a glimpse into what homelessness looks and might feel like.

“It’s to open people’s eyes to what the homeless encounter and experience in an Indiana winter,” she said. “Even people who stay with us and have a warm bed to sleep in at night, if they have a doctor’s appointment or a job interview or go to see family - they don’t have cars. So they’re walking, riding their bike or walking to the bus stop and standing there for 15 to 20 minutes waiting to get to where they’re wanting to go.”

Smith said some people might not be aware of the extent homelessness exists in the county because they may not encounter it. This event helps remind people that there are individuals who rely on the rescue mission throughout the year and particularly when the weather gets cold.

Last year the event raised just a few hundred dollars under $30,000, which exceeded the $25,000 goal with more than 600 walkers, including the Lakeview Christian School students who participated in a walk on a school day. Smith said this year’s goal is $30,000 with the hopes of more than 700 walkers.

Someday Smith said she hopes to see more than 1,000 walkers join the event and they’re getting there slowly but surely. This year will be the third year for both Smith and Executive Director Rick Berbereia to help organize the event and since their start in 2017. Smith said they’ve seen significant growth.

The motto for the walk is “Life change happens here” and the funds raised will help the rescue mission to continue providing life change in the community, Smith added.

Berbereia said that’s what makes the event so important.

“The most important thing about the walk is the hope it brings not only to our community but to our Life Change residents at the Grant County Rescue Mission,” he said. “... Without events like this, we wouldn’t have the funds to provide life changing hope.”

Money raised from the walk will go to pay for meals and programming the rescue mission provides, including an addiction recovery program that has seen 11 people graduate since it was started.

Smith said it costs $2.05 to feed one person one meal and in 2018 they served a total of 68,785 meals, which is roughly 200 meals each day.

While funds are needed to keep things going year-round, the rescue mission does see a dramatic increase in numbers during the months of January and February, Smith added. Since negative degrees aren’t uncommon in an Indiana weather, it becomes dangerous for people to stay outside.

Berbereia and Smith both said they are looking forward to seeing the amount of community support that comes from the event.

“It’s so encouraging every year to see that full gym and see all these people love the people we serve so much, that they show up and raise money and want them to know they’re not alone,” Smith said.

The event will begin at the Grant County YMCA with registration at 9 a.m. and the walk at 10 a.m. There will also be a free breakfast provided by New Life Community Church, a D.J. from D.J. Sound Solution and door prizes from local businesses that are helping sponsor the event.

Registration is free but participants are encouraged to donate to the rescue mission. Smith said if people pre-register online, they’re also given a link they can share on social media to raise funds on the rescue mission’s behalf.