Weston Woman Participates in 10th Annual Winter Walk to End Homelessness
Carol Ritter, 63, of Weston is a woman of faith who values her community, family and has gratitude toward all that she has. On Sunday, Dec. 2, she will set out with Team Saint Julia and raise funds and awareness for Hearth by participating in her third Winter Walk.
Initially, Ritter saw the Winter Walk as an opportunity for her confirmation students at Saint Julia Church to get involved in a community service project. After completing the two-mile route for the first time with dirty slush entering through a hole in her boot, the Winter Walk began to take on a whole new meaning for her.
“The first year we did the walk in Weston I had on leaky boots and by the end my feet were numb, I could barely walk and I had tears in my eyes,” says Ritter. “All I could think about was what if this was my life? I could be that 60-year-old woman walking around Boston not having a home to return to.”
The following year, with the help of fellow church members, Ritter decided to create and sell a cookbook in which all proceeds went directly to Hearth. For this project, twenty-four parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston participated in submitting recipes and $14,000 was raised to help in the fight against homelessness.
“Our cookbook was definitely a fundraising success,” says Ritter. “By last year, we had gotten close to some of Hearth’s residents which inspired us to participate in the organization’s adopt-a-room program and help to furnish a unit at Olmsted Green.” Several members of the Julia Church volunteered in the move-in day to help arrange the furnishings, set-up the kitchen and decorate. The adopt-a-room program provided furnishings and personal items for the 59-new units at Hearth’s all-new affordable housing unit, Olmsted Green. Those who participated in the adopt-a-room program helped to transform apartments into homes for the new residents.
Team Saint Julia made up of Weston residents and churchgoers, will walk 15 members strong in the Winter Walk at the Boston Common this year, with the hope of raising $1,000 to help fund solutions to end homelessness throughout Greater Boston and beyond. Ritter and other members of the team also plan to continue their tradition of caroling with Hearth residents during the holiday season.
“Every Christmas since our first walk, we have visited Ruggles affordable assisted living community to sing Christmas carols and deliver small presents to Hearth’s residents,” says Ritter. “It is the warmth, the fellowship and the openness of the residents who make you feel like family. They are the reason I continue to visit Ruggles and participate in the Winter Walk.”
Since the Winter Walk’s inception in 2003, the charity event has grown not only in size and participation, but also in its reach. The Winter Walk now raises funds for two leading nonprofit organizations in Greater Boston that work to end homelessness, HomeStart and Hearth, which focuses on helping homeless elders find safe, affordable, appropriate housing. Overall, the Winter Walk has raised more than $100,000 to provide permanent and affordable housing and to assist those in danger of losing their homes.
Homelessness is a growing problem in Massachusetts that affects more than 16,000 residents, including 6,000 Bostonians. Hearth relies on the generosity and support of volunteers like Ritter in order to develop and operate affordable, service-enriched housing. Hearth’s services are designed for homeless and low-income elders and provide important support and stabilization services, all necessary to ensure permanent housing placements.
“On average, it costs $1,285 for a case manager to help someone move from the streets into permanent housing,” says Mark Hinderlie, CEO and president of Hearth. “Without the support and dedication of people like Carol, fulfilling our mission would not be possible.”
The 10th Annual Winter Walk is set to take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2 at the Boston Common. The event symbolizes the hardship and difficulties the homeless population experience every day as they walk the winter streets looking for shelter. This year, they hope to draw 500 participants to the Boston Common for a two-mile route and raise $200,000.
For questions, more information, or to register to participate in the 2012 Winter Walk, visit winterwalk.org.