MEOC Walkathon supports Emergency Fuel Fund for the elderly

August 26, 2021


You can support the Walkathon in several ways:

  • Participate as a walker. Contact MEOC at 276/523-4202 to request a pledge form and begin collecting pledges. Raise at least $100 to receive a Walkathon T-shirt.

 • Donate. If you are unable to walk but would like to support the cause, you can easily contribute.

- Visit, and click ‘Donate.’

- 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.  

Get your walking shoes out and plan to join an upcoming event that will help keep your older neighbors and friends warm this winter.

 Mountain Empire Older Citizens will host its 45th Walkathon on Sunday, Aug. 29, at Bullitt Park in Big Stone Gap. The 5K walk raises money for MEOC’s Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly, a program that annually provides emergency heating assistance to about 1,000 older adults in Lee, Scott and Wise counties and the City of Norton. 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 Strong Community Raising Spirits.

 The hamburger picnic that traditionally follows the Walkathon has been canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, participants will receive goody bags containing snacks and other items.

 The Walkathon is the primary fundraiser for the fuel fund, which receives no state or federal funding. The program is entirely dependent on community contributions to assist frail, vulnerable older adults in need. Individuals, businesses, churches and civic groups have for decades generously kept the fund going. 

 Donations have been arriving for this year’s Walkathon, but there is still a long way to go to meet the $165,000 goal. As of Aug. 23, the total raised is a little more than $75,700.

 Last winter, the program helped 973 older families with heating-related emergencies at an expense of over $203,000. The same need, if not greater, will exist this coming winter.

 For older citizens like Dorothy Bishop of Gate City, the Emergency Fuel Fund has been a comfort and relief in times of need.

 Bishop, who celebrated her 96th birthday on Aug. 17, lives in an apartment complex with 3-month-old Maggie, a fluffy white Shih Tzu with a fast-wagging tail and an abundance of energy. They both greet guests warmly, and Bishop chats easily about her life.

 Bishop was born in Ohio but has also lived in Michigan and Arkansas. She worked at various jobs, including managing apartment buildings with her late husband. She moved to southwestern Virginia about five years ago to be close to her son, one of five children.

 Bishop learned about the Emergency Fuel Fund while volunteering with MEOC’s AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparent Program. She appreciates the help provided by the fund when her electric bill increased during colder months and her income was stretched thin. The program can pay electric bills or buy wood, coal, propane, or heating oil for those who qualify. “I will never forget the help I received. I was so thankful for that,” said Bishop.

 MEOC Emergency Services Director Marsha Craiger said Bishop is one of many older residents who are helped by the fuel fund each year. “The Emergency Fuel Fund helps people right here in our communities. They are your neighbors, relatives, friends and people you attend church with. Every donation directly pays a heating expense for an older person, and heating fuels are purchased from local vendors. The fund has never been used to pay for any administrative costs,” said Craiger. 

MEOC Executive Director Michael Wampler praised the community’s longtime support of the Walkathon. “I am always amazed at the generosity and support from local businesses, individuals, churches, civic groups and everyone who contributes in any way. We have already received many donations and are off to a good start, but we still have a long way to go. We are hopeful of reaching the $165,000 mark again this year, and we can’t wait to see everyone in person on the Greenbelt on Aug. 29,” said Wampler.

 For more information about how to get involved in this year’s Walkathon, contact MEOC at(276/523-4202.