Walking the walk in Meriden so others have a way to stay warm

Saturday, March 3, 2012
Meriden Record-Journal
Meriden, CT

About 130 people braved the cold rain on Saturday morning to participate in New Opportunities’ 23rd annual Walk for Warmth in Meriden.

The two-mile walk raised money and awareness for Meriden residents who don’t qualify for federal or state home-heating assistance, but still struggle to keep their homes warm during the winter months.

“We’ve been grateful for the mild winter,” said James Gatling, New Opportunities’ president and CEO. “I would hate to see what would’ve happened if we had a winter like last year.”

The federal government decreased its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) allocation to Connecticut by $23.4 million in fiscal year 2011-12. President Barack Obama recommended cutting the program further in fiscal year 2012-13, which would result in an additional $13.9 million loss for Connecticut residents.

The walk started at 10 a.m. at First Congregational Church on Colony Street. Although there have been more participants in the past, the turnout was still good, said Larry Elliot, community services director for New Opportunities of Greater Meriden and organizer of the walk for the past 23 years.

“It came about out of the need and want to meet the needs for people who can’t qualify for federal or state assistance,” he said.

The walk was followed by a reception at First Congregational Church that included free food and coffee, and a raffle and auction to raise more money for heating assistance. The kids were entertained by the face paint and mechanical safari animals, and even a few adults to ride around on.

Many city and state officials, including Meriden Mayor Michael S. Rohde and state Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan, came to show their support for the cause. Rohde has participated in the event for a number of years, he said.

“Meriden is a very giving community and has a tradition of helping others,” the mayor said. “I’m proud of it.”

Many of the walk’s participants are regulars. Meriden resident Maria Clarke has participated in Walk for Warmth for the past nine years.

“I do it to give to those in need who need it desperately,” she said.

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