By Lauren Kroll and BriAnn Harvey
Mason Times staff writer
MASON — Rural Ingham County Capitol Area Community Services hosted its 23rd annual Walk for Warmth in Mason on Sat. Feb. 25.
The Walk for Warmth is a volunteer community based effort to assist low-income families with heat bills. CACS hosts walks in Lansing and Ingham, Eaton, Clinton and Shiawassee counties the fourth Saturday in February each year.
The Mason walk is planned by the Rural Ingham Service ACCESS Center which covers all of Mason and all other rural Ingham County areas outside Lansing and East Lansing.
The Rural Ingham County center says that each Walk for Warmth is held specifically in February so participants can have the feeling of how it feels to have your heat turned off.
The walk tries to be as close to three miles as it can depending on where the warming site is that year.
The Walk for Warmth usually begins at 9 a.m., however the board voted to change the walk time to 11 a.m. in hopes of bringing out more people.
The walk began at First United Methodist Church, 201 E. Ash St. and met halfway at its warming site at All Saints Lutheran Church, 720 W. South St. where walkers were greeted with refreshments and a place to chat before making the hike back to First United, where the walk ended.
ACCESS Center coordinator Jeff Keener explained that money is raised by individuals who request a pledge sheet and ask for either one-time donations of as much as $5-10 or continuous donations throughout the winter.
“Donations raised by each of the four counties stay in these counties and go toward helping people with their monthly heating and utility bills,” Keener said.
Keener said that people who need assistance will call the community action agencies and apply once every 12 months. “If their level of household income is 150 percent of the poverty level, then they are eligible for the utility assistance,” Keener added.
An anonymous client who has received heating assistance in past years thanked the CACS for all the help provide for the family and for being kind and understanding. The client said that their family will always remember the help they have given them.
This year, Consumers Energy participated in the walk by raising funds and recruiting walkers. It recruited 22 walkers for the Mason walk and the Lansing.
“Consumers did a statewide media campaign with signs and advertisements, as well as pledging to match each employee participating from the companies’ donations,” he said.
He added that the help from Consumers Energy has been great, since the turnout last year for Mason was only about 55 walkers without their added 27 this year.
“Sometimes, we get groups of students from nearby Cooley Law School, or LCC, and even some sororities from Michigan State will come out to help as well,” he said. “The main overall goal is to help with their bills so their heat doesn’t get turned off.”