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Friends of the Poor Walk sets pace for those in need

MarshHoernig (left) Gary signs registratiforms with her family before start St. Vincent de Paul Friends Poor Walk Sept. 28 LemLake

Marsha Hoernig (left) of Gary signs registration forms with her family before the start of the St. Vincent de Paul Friends of the Poor Walk on Sept. 28 at Lemon Lake County Park in Crown Point.

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Updated: November 28, 2013 6:19AM



Participants in the recent Friends of the Poor Walk coordinated by the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul did not wear timing chips and were not looking at stopwatches. They sought, however, to keep pace with the needs of underprivileged region residents.

About 300 walkers gathered at Lemon Lake County Park in Crown Point and Taltree Arboretum and Gardens in Valparaiso on Sept. 28 for two simultaneous non-competitive charity walks.

To a backdrop of scenic greenery and mild conditions, Friends of the Poor participants tackled inclines and took measured strolls around a lake. A nearby picnic shelter bustled with activity as volunteers sorted registration paperwork or grilled foods for returning walkers.

Diane McKern, race coordinator and member of the Catholic charitable organization for lay people, said Vincentians apply Gospel values in their service to those who suffer in society.

More than $25,000 was collected by walkers, who solicited pledges from family and friends. Fourteen parish-based chapters in Lake and Porter counties contributed to the 6th annual event that is part of a national charitable effort.

“We’re trying to help the disease of poverty,” said McKern. “We’ve got a lot of middle-class families experiencing job loses and who live paycheck to paycheck. They’re in crisis.”

McKern said the charity work is unique because all of the proceeds are sent to neighborhood church food pantries or are retained to help economically struggling people throughout the area who are in emergency situations.

“Their need is our main concern,” McKern said.

While many area athletes prepare for marathons during the early fall, the running shoes that some wore at Lemon Lake for the Friends of the Poor event suggested over-preparation. But some young walkers including teens from Hobart may actually have required the gear to get a quick start and stay in the lead.

“We started running… and finished first,” said Joseph James and Michael Meagher, both 13, and Jack Olson, 11, almost in unison.

At the post-walk picnic, the youths said being athletic was in their blood and that taking the time to consider the needy was something that many people seem to overlook. Encouragement from their parents got them there, but then they bought into the cause.

“(The walk) has good intentions and it’s good to offer up to the poor,” said Meagher. “We can help raise money for them so that they can all live like we do.”

Some of the youngest participants were pushed in strollers, while several hardy seniors completed the mile-long path and recalled old times.

“I’m not even winded,” said Jim Montella, a Schererville resident. “You want to know why? I had five (heart) bypasses.”

He said he and his wife of 57 years, Jeanie Montella, and neighbors attend weekly fitness meetings.

“We like to walk to try to save our health and everything else,” Jim Montella said.



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