Though the Bob Murray Housing With Love Walk might have taken its last steps in 2017, those at both the Harwich Ecumenical Council For Housing and the Chatham Ecumenical Council for Preventing Homelessness know the need is still great, which is why they've combined forces for the first Mini Love Walk.
Slated for July 12, folks from CECH and HECH will be walking the Chatham to Harwich leg of the Bob Murray walk in honor of Murray and to continue raising much needed funds to help support their local communities.
“It's one of our major fundraisers for the year and we wanted to be cooperative with our neighbor in Harwich, which does the same type of thing we do,” said Diane Kennedy, co-president of CECH. “We thought if we made it a smaller walk, from Chatham to Harwich, we could help the people in the local area.”
“Basically [the idea for the walk] came from brainstorming within our offices and with the people in Chatham,” said George Swope, HECH executive director, adding that the general consensus was that the full Provincetown to Woods Hole walk had outlived it's purpose. “We spoke with Chatham and decided to do our own little mini walk and focus on our two organizations and our part of the Cape.”
According to Kennedy, from January of this year to the end of May, CECH helped 19 families, spending a total of $23,255.
“The funds went directly to the vendors supplying those who are referred to help,” Kennedy said. “During June alone we have had 12 requests for help. The need seems to be skyrocketing, not diminishing.”
The situation is the same at HECH.
“It's very similar,” said Swope. “Thanks to a bequest we received a couple of years ago, we have a divested fund (the Libby Stevens Emergency Stabilization Fund) that gives us $4,000 per quarter for rent assistance. Generally we're able to help somewhere between six and eight individuals or families per quarter. Unfortunately right now for our rental units we have big waiting lists.”
The organization also recently received a $1,000 grant from Massachusetts Realtors, but Swope emphasized that the funds only last so long when so many are struggling.
“I know we started with the idea of getting homeless people out of motels, but the broader issue is affordability,” he said. “The need is real.”
Kennedy, a retiree, said she, like others at CECH and HECH, remain dedicated to finding ways to support community members in need.
“I like to keep busy helping the community be all we can be, helping those who fall through the cracks,” she said. “It's not all Mercedes Benzes and dinners out here. Somebody has to wait on tables and clean the hotel rooms.”
And those, agreed Kennedy and Swope, are the residents that need the most support. It is with them in mind that walkers will eagerly lace up their sneakers on July 12 at 8:30 a.m., traveling from the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church parking lot to the First Congregational Church in Harwich Center.
“So far, a lot of the people who sponsored HECH in the past for the big walk are coming back and supporting us for this event, which is wonderful,” said Swope. The fundraising will continue this fall, as well. “It is hoped that in late October we'll hold a fine wine and gourmet food pairing with a mini live auction.”
Both Swope and Kennedy hope area residents, year-round and summer visitors, will open their hearts and their wallets.
“We know a lot of the full time residents know of the [affordable housing] issue, and we hope the part-time residents learn of the need as well,” Swope said. “Every bit helps.”
For more information about the Mini Love Walk, email CECH at firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a donation to CECH, send checks to CECH, PO Box 81, West Chatham, MA, 02669. To make a donation to HECH, visit hech.org and look for the yellow donate button. Donations can also be made here.