SHU Hosts Bridgeport Rescue Mission's Walk for the Homeless
They were on a mission, a mission from God… to raise funds to continue their good work serving the hungry, homeless and addicted of Fairfield County.
Mid-morning Saturday, September 10, over 250 people – young, old and in between – gathered together on the campus of Sacred Heart University to literally “Walk A Mile” loop to benefit the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. Each walker pledged a certain dollar amount and sponsors kicked in more monies to help fund the Mission’s operations. At the same time, through creative dramatic depictions of homelessness staged along the route, participants learned more about the deep-rooted problem in Connecticut.
According to SHU’s Assistant Director of Volunteer Programs Maura Cook, “It was great to have the opportunity to host the Bridgeport Rescue Mission’s Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event this year. We are very fortunate to partner with them for many events every year. They provide our students with a valuable opportunity to learn about homelessness while serving in their soup kitchen and helping with their holiday drives. I think the student representation at the walk is a testament to our valuable partnership, and was so pleased to be a part of such an important event. Our students truly love the work that they do at the Mission, and this event was a wonderful chance for them to walk for and with a cause that is so deeply important to all of us at Sacred Heart.”
Bridgeport Rescue Mission Executive Director Terry Wilcox said, “SHU was an ideal host in part because of its mission and the school’s concern for the City of Bridgeport.” Wilcox added that planning for the Walk had begun several months ago, with Development Associate Jennifer Christie-Jump helping map the route and plan the various installations. The theme was “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” - to that end Wilcox said, “Homelessness can affect anyone – the wealthy man on Wall Street, someone who’s lost a job, such as a single mom who can’t make the mortgage. It’s not just drug addicts and alcoholics. It’s a sad condition.”
Wilcox went on to say, “the issue of homelessness is not just about putting a roof over someone’s head,” he said. “There are reasons why someone is homeless.”
Take, for instance, the case of Tom Romatizick. “Tom was a young man with great promise, who spent a lot of time in addiction,” said Wilcox. “He came to the Mission, became free of addiction and went back to independent living.”
Sadly, the story did not end there. “Not long after, about three years ago, he was supposed to meet his mom to go to church,” began Wilcox. “When he didn’t show, she went to his place to see what happened – the fear was that he’d relapsed. They found him at home, dressed for church, Bible open and in his lap, dead. People that had known him thought he’d overdosed but an autopsy showed no drugs or alcohol in his system. It was a heart attack. He was only 39.”
Wilcox continued, speaking about some of the specific activities of the Mission. “In the last three years, we’ve seen people at our shelters that you’d never dream of seeing,” he said. “Last year, we gave away 580,000 meals, largely in Bridgeport and South Norwalk. Last Thanksgiving alone, we gave out 7,000 coats and jackets. We offer an addiction recovery program for men and women, which currently has 45 participants. Those people get three meals a day, shelter, clothing, work assignments. We run both women’s and men’s shelters in Bridgeport. On any given night at our 4 different campuses we have approximately 100 men and women sleeping under our roofs.
Wilcox expressed thanks for the University stepping up as host of the Walk and commended participating students. “Our relationship goes back many years before,” he said. “Students volunteer every week to serve meals at the shelter. I was telling the University president that students have such a great attitude. They smile, are pleasant, talk with clients. They’re not there because they have to be.”
The Bridgeport Rescue Mission’s Director of Development Linda Casey added, “They were right here at 8 a.m. ready to go, and even brought us coffee and tea.”
To view photos from the event, CLICK HERE.