By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald
Walkers will flood the streets of downtown Port Huron on Saturday as Walk for Warmth returns for its 25th year.
The event takes participants on a two-mile walk, raising money to assist seniors and low-income residents with heating their homes this winter.
To celebrate the event’s 25th anniversary, Port Huron firefighters will offer a presentation on home heating safety.
Sherry Archibald, deputy director for Blue Water Community Action Agency — the nonprofit organization that hosts the annual event — said the agency decided on the safety theme because of the amount of heating the frigid winter has required from residents this year.
“We thought it was a nice twist to have,” Archibald said. “A couple of us were talking about what the theme should be this year. We design a different T-shirt each year and thought of having fireman boots on it. It fit very well with what we are doing.”
The walk begins at the American Legion at 1026 Sixth St., where registration starts at 9 a.m. The walk concludes back at the American Legion with a warm breakfast followed by the fire department’s presentation.
Archibald said this year’s route has been changed. The Military Street Bridge is closed for maintenance, so participants will walk across the Seventh Street Bridge to reach the downtown businesses on Huron Avenue. Walkers will continue on Huron Avenue until they reach Glenwood Avenue, where they will turn around and return to the starting point.
“We try to walk on either side of (Huron Avenue) for visibility and some of the businesses will provide hot chocolate,” Archibald said.
The event draws an average of 150 walkers, so Archibald said the goal for the event will remain at $15,000 from sponsors.
Last year that total was exceeded by about $1,100.
“We have a good core group that comes back year after year,” Archibald said. “We have never exceeded more than 200 people, and I would like to see it get to 600 eventually. We are looking at ways to make this a big enough event to get that magnitude of people.”
Each participant who raises $30 or more will receive a Walk for Warmth T-shirt. Prizes will be provided for the top three sponsors, which have been gift baskets or gift certificates in the past.
The Blue Water Community Action Agency is supported by federal and state dollars to assist residents in home heating, but it is the walk that helps pick up the slack wherever it is needed.
“We either run out of funds and use this money to pick up that gap or donate to families that don’t quite make the qualifications that are still in great need,” Archibald said. “It’s to make sure we don’t have anyone falling through the gaps because of income.”
Archibald and staff have been watching weather conditions for Saturday and said some can take a shorter route if the walk proves to be unbearable.
The National Weather Service predicts Saturday will be mostly sunny with a high of 20.
“The last thing we want to do is risk anyone’s well-being,” Archibald said. “We have had to have some walk or no one walk because of blizzards only twice in 25 years. This falls under different circumstances since it’s the temperature that can prove to be a hindrance.”
Port Huron Fire Operations Chief Dan Mainguy will speak about some of the precautions that go into heating a residential home afterward.
“I’ll just be giving a brief speech, telling people about tips if they’re supplementing their heat with space heaters or heating lamps,” he said.
Not only will Mainguy be speaking afterward, but he also will be taking part in his first Walk for Warmth.
Along with other firefighters, Mainguy said the department will have a fire apparatus leading the way for volunteer walkers.
“This will be my first time,” he said. “It will truly be a Walk for Warmth while it is this cold outside. It would be ironic to get 40-degree weather, but I don’t think we will be that blessed this weekend.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 25, 2015)