Gina Wautier does not describe herself as a runner, but for the last five years, she has turned herself into one to raise funds for the causes closest to her.
The Brussels resident is the development and energy assistance manager for We Are Hope, with provides job services and home energy assistance to families in Door County.
Wautier has participated in the Run For A Cause program by running the Nicolet Bay 5k for the last five years.. The Door County Half Marathon and Nicolet Bay 5k awards runners a free registration to to race when they raise at least $250 for an area non-profit. Last year Wautier and four fellow team members raised $3,396 for We Are Hope.
“It’s a good team builder for our staff and gives people a way to give back and help out, and it helps us get the word out about the program,” Wautier says. “Plus it’s a whole lotta fun. It gives me incentive to try to get in shape and be healthier.”
Though We Are Hope receives federal funds to help families in need, Wautier says it doesn’t cover the full need in the community.
“Sometimes there are gaps when the federal funds run short, like the year of the propane crisis, when prices spiked to $7 a gallon,” she says. “So that year the RFAC funds helped close the gap for people. Our Run for A Cause funds allow us to help more people in tough times.”
We Are Hope provides emergency energy assistance to the 1,300 families in Door County who have registered for the program. Those families receive a one-time benefit to help them keep the heat on in their homes. Half of the recipients are elderly, and most of the rest are families with children, often living in old drafty farmhouses.
“The people I see make a decent income for Door County, but have drafty homes, old systems,” she says.
They also provide a one-time crisis payment to an additional 300 – 400 families.
“Sometimes an unexpected medical problem hurts a family, or a car breaks down that they have to fix to get to work,” Wautier says.
The benefit covers up to 25 percent of one month’s heating bill, up to $250. Those with a three-month income of no more than $6,400 or an annual income no greater than $25,000 qualify for the assistance.
While a $250 benefit may not seem like a ton, for many Door County families who work in the service industry or live off retirement benefits, it can make a tremendous difference. Not only does it keep the heat on, but it stops people from racking up credit card debt, late fees, or missing payments and turning a $250 bill into a much greater financial burden.
“People who work service industry are always playing catchup,” Wautier says. “In the summer they’re catching up from the winter before when the money wasn’t coming in. And it’s not just workers. We have a lot of small business owners who make their income in summer, and require help to get through the winter.”
Through the Door County Half Marathon’s Run For A Cause program, Wautier and the team from We Are Hope are making winter’s a little easier for families in need, one step at a time.
To donate to the We Are Hope Run For A Cause team, call Gina Wautier at (920) 743-7273 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.