‘It helped me so much’

Living on a fixed income, 96-year-old Magdalene Stipe says increased heating costs in the winter months means she may have to do without something else she needs.

So she was appreciative when her MEOC personal care aide told her about the Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly. “I was so thankful she told me about it,” said Stipe. “It helped me so much. It paid my biggest electric bill I had during the winter. That meant I could still buy other things I needed. And I told my neighbor about it too. She’s 88 and she was able to get help too. It was such a big help,” Stipe said.

Stipe has lived in Big Stone Gap all her life and in her current home since 1964. She was married to her husband Ernest for 31 years before his death 40 years ago. They had two children, one of whom is deceased. Before her vision failed, Stipe loved reading her Bible and was a Sunday school teacher for 20 years. Stipe continues to live independently in her own home and has a close group of family and friends who keep a close check on her.

She is just one of nearly 1,000 older adults in MEOC’s service area who was assisted by the Emergency Fuel Fund this past winter. “Ms. Stipe and others like her are the reason the fuel fund exists,” said MEOC Emergency Services Director Marsha Craiger. “The Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly is one of MEOC’s longest-running programs and has provided assistance to our region’s most vulnerable residents for decades. The program is remarkable because it is funded entirely with community donations,” Craiger continued.

The bulk of those donations are made during MEOC’s largest annual fundraiser, the Walkathon. This year’s event is set for Sunday, May 1. This will be the 46th year the Walkathon has taken place. The walk will begin at 2 p.m. at Big Stone Gap’s Bullitt Park and proceed along the Greenbelt Trail. Registration will start at 1 p.m. The rain date is May 15. The Walkathon is returning to its traditional spring date after the 2021 event was held in late August.

The fundraising goal is $165,000, and the community’s support is needed to reach it, said Craiger.

“We are asking everyone to come out, enjoy the day with us and support this worthy cause. The Emergency Fuel Fund is truly the community’s fund. Every cent that has been spent to help someone comes from the heart and generosity of someone else. We were fortunate to surpass our goal last year, and we hope to do so again this year,” she added.

MEOC Executive Director Michael Wampler is glad to see the Walkathon returning to the first Sunday in May after the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the 2020 event to virtual and moved the 2021 event to a late summer date. “We are excited to be back on track and hosting the Walkathon in May. The Walkathon is MEOC’s biggest annual fundraiser for the Emergency Fuel Fund, and we are grateful to everyone who supports the cause. We look forward to seeing everyone there,” said Wampler.


You can support the Walkathon in several ways.

● Participate as a walker. Contact MEOC at (276) 523-4202 to request a pledge form and begin collecting pledges. Raise at least $100 to receive a Walkathon T-shirt.

● Donate. If you are unable to walk but would like to support the cause, you can easily contribute.
– Visit www.meoc.org, and click “Donate.”
– Text DONATE to (276) 242-3525.
– Mail a check to MEOC, P.O. Box 888, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219.

● Spread the word. Everyone can help by telling family, friends, and neighbors about this event.

For more information about how to get involved in this year’s Walkathon, contact MEOC at (276) 523-4202.