WAIM Walk For Warmth raises money for heat

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Nov. 22, 2011
Walk for Warmth participants head down Main Street on Nov. 20. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Walk for Warmth participants head down Main Street on Nov. 20. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Many Windham-area families will be warmer this winter, thanks to the willingness of their neighbors to give up an afternoon to Walk for Warmth. The annual event, held at St. Joseph’s Church on Nov. 20, drew hundreds of participants, and will go a long way toward refilling the coffers of the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry’s Energy Assistance Fund.

“We have virtually run out of money in the fund,” said Evelyn Solla, one of the administrators of the program for WAIM. Solla estimated that she has had to turn away at least 20 families so far this year, as the agency has been forced to limit its assistance to families with very small children and the elderly or infirm. “WAIM has purchased some space heaters,” said Solla, “just to kind of help see the other families through. We’re hoping this event will replenish some of our funding.”

Showing up for the walk were local students and retirees, families with children and individuals with dogs. Walkers were asked to procure a minimum of $20 in donations. The walk itself is a leisurely stroll around downtown Willimantic, followed by a spread of goodies and entertainment back at the church. With a total of 39 different faith-based communities making up the WAIM conglomerate, churches take turns hosting the event every year.

Jeanne Crum was participating in her first walk this year. She got involved through a local club which calls itself FILL-anthropic. “We raise money for local charities,” said Crum. Crum, who works with Home Selling Team LLC, said that the group meets once per month to socialize and discuss ways to get involved with the community. “For November and December, we are raising money through WAIM to adopt a family for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Crum. In December, the group will decide upon their focus going forward.

Formed in December of 2010, “We’ve raised more than $2,700 in just 11 months,” said Karen Gilbransen. Gilbransen came up with the idea for the club when she was discussing ways to help with other members of the community. “The idea was that a lot of people together could make a bigger difference,” she said. Check out FILL-anthropic on Facebook for more information.

Another first-time walker was Paul Ashton. Ashton is a friend of WAIM Director Victoria Nimirowski, and has long supported the organization. But this was his first opportunity to participate in the Walk for Warmth. “I guess this is the first time I’ve been in the area for it,” said Ashton. Ashton feels that more and more people are becoming aware of what it feels like to be cold. “Whether for financial reasons or due to the snowstorm, I think a lot of people have become aware of what it’s like to do without heat,” said Ashton. “It’s hard enough being without heat temporarily. It’s hard to imagine being in a situation where you just don’t have the money to buy heating oil.”

According to Solla, WAIM expects to be approached by at least 200 families needing assistance with heat this year. You can make a donation to WAIM through the mail by sending a check to WAIM, 866 Main St., P.O. Box 221, Willimantic, CT 06226. WAIM can also now accept donations via credit card through their website at www.waimct.org.

Supported by 39 different churches/faith communities in the Windham area, WAIM is committed to the free redistribution of clothing, household goods and furniture to people who need them. WAIM is a volunteer-driven organization that serves about 7,500 people a year via basic services and special programs. WAIM has also expanded into the provision of energy assistance and administering funds to prevent homelessness.

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