Walkathon is a longtime tradition for Taylor

Seventy-four-year-old Barbara Taylor began raising money for the Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly about 20 years ago.

Back then, she was a personal care aide for Mountain Empire Older Citizens, the area agency on aging that has operated the fuel fund since 1975. Relying entirely on donations, with no money ever used for administrative costs, the fuel fund helps older adults in Lee, Scott and Wise counties and the City of Norton with emergency heating expenses. The program pays for wood, coal, propane, heating oil or electric bills for those at least age 60 whose income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

Taylor, of Norton, was encouraged by her MEOC supervisors to participate in the agency’s annual Walkathon, which raises money for the fuel fund. So she did. Taylor went door to door asking local businesses to sponsor her in the event. She doesn’t recall exactly how much she raised that first year, but what does stand out is how supportive people were of the cause.

“I saw how the program helped people in need, including clients I worked with, and I wanted to do my part,” said Taylor.

However, Taylor’s fundraising efforts for the Emergency Fuel Fund didn’t end after that first year. She has raised money for the Walkathon every year since, raising about $1,000 each time.

The event became a tradition for Taylor and her family, including two daughters, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Her husband Roy passed away about two years ago.

Taylor continued the tradition even after retiring and later suffering a heart attack. Though she is no longer a personal care aide for MEOC, Taylor is now connected to the agency in a different way. She is enrolled in Mountain Empire Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, an alternative to nursing facilities designed to help older adults remain independent in their own homes with assistance.

Despite having health problems, Taylor, with help from her family, still makes her annual contribution to the Walkathon. With the 46th annual Walkathon coming up Sunday, May 1, she has once again been busy raising money to help area older adults stay warm next winter.

Taylor said she is unable to complete the 5K but still fundraises for the event. Sometimes a family member will drive her to local businesses, and she contacts other donors by phone. “I’ll keep doing it as long as I have the ability,” said Taylor. She is hopeful that her family will continue the tradition after she is no longer able.

MEOC appreciates Taylor and countless others who have supported the Walkathon over the decades. “We are so thankful for Ms. Taylor and others like her who give to the Emergency Fuel Fund year after year. Without community support, the program would not be possible,” said MEOC Emergency Services Director Marsha Craiger.

The Walkathon goal is $165,000, and Craiger hopes for a large turnout at the event. It will take place at Big Stone Gap’s Bullitt Park. Registration will begin at 1 p.m. The walk will start at 2 p.m. and proceed along the Greenbelt Trail. This year’s theme is Bring the Heat.

Participants who raise at least $100 will receive a T-shirt, and everyone will receive goody bags containing snacks and other items.

MEOC Executive Director Michael Wampler praised the community’s support of the event. “I am always in awe of the generosity and support of individuals, businesses, churches, civic groups and others who contribute in any way. Donations have already been coming in, but we still have a long way to go. We hope to reach the $165,000 mark again this year,” he noted.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

Want to take part in the May 1 Walkathon? Here’s what you need to do:

• Get your forms by contacting MEOC Emergency Services Director Marsha Craiger at (276) 523-4202 or mcraiger@meoc.org.

• Start collecting pledges. Ask your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and others to support you in your cause. Collect donations as you go. Checks should be made payable to Mountain Empire Older Citizens. Raise at least $100 and receive a Walkathon T-shirt on the event day.

• Be at Bullitt Park, Big Stone Gap, on Sunday, May 1, for the Walkathon. Registration starts at 1 p.m. Turn in your forms when you register. The walk, which will wind about three miles along the Greenbelt Trail, will begin at 2 p.m.

OTHER WAYS TO HELP

Can’t participate in the Walkathon but still want to help? You can contribute in other ways:

• Donate. If you cannot walk but would like to support the cause, you can easily contribute.

-Make an online donation here.

-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 getting involved in this year’s Walkathon, contact MEOC at (276) 523-4202.

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