BANGOR, Maine — The team from the local Blue Seal store was very popular at Saturday’s Hike for the Homeless, with the four-legged hikers that started the walk at Bangor High School.
That’s because the five-member team stuffed their pockets with dog biscuits for the walk to the Bangor Waterfront, joined by several dozens dogs ranging in size from a bulky St. Bernard to a tiny Chihuahua. As several hundred walkers left the high school, the temperature was hovering a little above 40 degrees, and a chilly wind buffeted the lead group’s banner.
“I think this is a great way to help out the community,” Jeremy Hughes, the manager of the Bangor store on Stillwater Avenue, said as the hike was about to begin.
This was the first year the company took part in the annual walk to raise funds for the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter. Blue Seal paid employees’ registration fees for the event and donated a $50 gift certificate for a raffle held at the end of the walk.
“Next year we hope to have a table on the waterfront,” Hughes said.
About 37 percent of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter’s annual $800,000 budget comes from federal and state funds, according to Boyd Kronholm, executive director of the shelter, located on the corner of Main and Cedar streets in Bangor. The shelter also receives money from United Way, private foundations, donations and the Hike for the Homeless.
“Over the past year more than 5,000 individuals visited the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter in need of a clean, safe place to stay, a hot meal and other supportive services,” he said earlier this month in a news release announcing the hike. “Money raised through this event helps our organization provide the essential services our guests need including food, shelter, crisis intervention and connections to services, including medical and psychiatric care.”
All who visit the shelter and obtain services there do not spend the night, Kronholm said.
“In 2014 we had 483 individual guests, 2015 was 490 and in 2016 it was 398,” he said Friday in an email. “While the guest number has dropped, the bed nights remain fairly consistent as people are staying longer.”
This was the first year Arthur Curry, program director at the shelter, has participated in the hike, but he persuaded 14 family members and friends to join his team, named “Homeless but not Hopeless.”
“Seeing so many of us out in the community raises awareness about the issue of homelessness,” he said. “It also shows that we appreciate how the community supports the shelter.”
More than 1,100 people took part in last year’s march. Information on how many people participated this year was not available Saturday morning.
In addition to Bangor High School, participants began converging on the Bangor Waterfront from Hampden Academy, the Hermon Sports Arena and Eastern Maine Healthcare in Brewer.