Color filled the streets of Gary Saturday morning as walkers laced up their tennis shoes and took to the roads for the annual Walk for Sojourner Truth House (STH). This year marked the 20th anniversary of the event, and was deemed a “color walk” in celebration of this noteworthy commemoration.
“Every year we do something different, and we decided to do color fest for this special anniversary,” said Sister Peg Spindler, Executive Director of STH. “We started this back in 1999; it’s our biggest fundraiser of the year, and our goal this year was to raise $115,000. We’re about halfway to our goal, and we’re hoping to get there by June 30th.”
Community members comprising 30 teams participated in the event, and though they came from all over the region, and even as far as Indianapolis, everyone was united in support of the mission of STH.
“We’re really working on the issue of homelessness, and that’s what this day is all about,” Spindler continued. “People get together in the hopes of helping us to help others get off the streets, and that’s what we’re about in a nutshell.”
Several different vendors took part in the festivities as well, including Elizabeth Rabe of Helping Hands In-Home Care.
“We just opened an office in Lake County helping with adults and children with developmental disabilities,” Rabe said. “We wanted to kind of get our name out there, and since one of our DSPs is a volunteer for STH we thought we’d come out and be a vendor here!”
After a quick warm up filled with lots of dancing, the walk began, and white shirts turned to tie dye as color was thrown at passing walkers. Participants wound through the streets dressed in their most colorful attire, sporting everything from classic athletic wear to tutus and costumes! Several groups carried signs with the message that they stand by STH and all it represents.
Laura Wassilak, whose parish, St. Theresa of Avilla, has been contributing to STH for quite awhile, was one of the many walkers.
“We do collections for their food pantry, and have recently become consistent volunteers with a monthly event we call ‘Service Saturday’,” Wassilak said. “This is our first event, but it has a lot of great energy and we love it!”
Generous donations and hours volunteered by community members help change the lives of people like Ashley Tatum, a member of STH who is a testament to this herself.
“I’ve been going through this struggle since December,” Tatum said. “This is the first place I’ve gone that has helped me not just with housing, but spiritually, mentally, and job wise as well; I can’t explain what they’ve done for me here.”
The walk was a huge success, but the fun didn’t end once participants crossed the finish line. A color war took place in the park across the street, ensuring no shirt was left a blank slate. Tours of STH were also offered post-race, giving guests a behind the scenes look at the care provided there every day.
“I’ve seen what goes on here first-hand, so it’s great to be able to open our doors and show people what we’re really all about,” said Karen Hernes, former intern for STH. “We are all just incredibly supportive of each other here, staff and clients included. It’s amazingly well-organized, and allows everyone who enters these doors to use their talents and skills to the fullest.”
The celebration continued with a fun-filled festival, where guests could enjoy refreshments, music, and games. Karen Freeman-Wilson, Mayor of Gary and Chair of the walk this year, was also in attendance, soaking up the positive vibes every minute of the day had to offer.
“I’m honored to be a part of putting on the walk this year, but I’d be here even if I wasn’t the chair or the Mayor,” Freeman-Wilson Said. “This is such a tremendous event for the citizens of this community and for those who are in need.”
“I hope that everyone here understands the power of unity,” Freeman-Wilson continued. “There are people from every community throughout Northwest Indiana here, and the fact that they are all in support of such a worthy cause really shows what happens when people come together.”
The 2019 Walk for Sojourner Truth House was one for the books, and will continue to be a meaningful and fun tradition for years to come. If you missed the fun this year, next year’s walk will take place on June 13th 2020!
To learn more about Sojourner Truth House, their mission, and how to volunteer, visit www.sojournertruthhouse.org.