Although he retired in January as manager of Waupaca County’s Aging and Disability Resource Center, Pat Enright is still working to help area seniors.
On Monday, he made his first steps on a 1,100-mile hike along the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin.
Starting at Second Avenue, on the west side of Hartman Creek State Park in Portage County, Enright will first walk south to the John Muir Memorial Park in Marquette County. He estimates that will take approximately two weeks.
“I will be taking a break on April 18 and walking to Madison for a meeting,” Enright said, adding that the first thing he will do prior to the meeting is take a shower.
As a member of Sweet Lips, a local comedy troupe, Enright will have to return home for a couple days, because the group will perform in Clintonville on April 20.
Enright will then return to the trail and finish the first segment of his hike at Potawatomi State Park in Door County. He estimates this portion of the hike will take about seven weeks.
“I’m doing the first half of the hike in April and early May,” Enright said, adding that much of the trail in this area is along roads and through towns where he can easily buy supplies and seek help if there is an emergency.
He believes the second half of his hike, which starts in September, will be more challenging.
Then he will be hiking more rugged trails in the northern part of Wisconsin. The trail ends at St. Croix Falls.
“You’re walking through woods on trails in more remote areas,” Enright said. “You can walk days without passing through any towns. It will be harder to obtain supplies and water.”
Although the second segment of his hike is a shorter distance, Enright expects it will also take about seven weeks.
Enright is making the journey to raise awareness and funds for Waupaca County’s senior nutrition program.
The program runs seven nutrition sites throughout the county.
Elderly people can visit the sites for lunch five days a week, except on holidays.
The program is also responsible for Meals on Wheels.
In 2012, the Waupaca County nutrition program served 86,950 meals. Volunteer drivers delivered nearly 51,500 of those meals to area residents.
Enright noted funding for the program has failed to keep up with costs.
“There haven’t been increases for the program in the past 10 years,” Enright said. “And the sequestration will cut more from nutrition programs.”
Christie Gonwa, who became the manager of the county’s Aging and Disability Resource Center when Enright retired, said the senior nutrition program costs about $575,000 annually.
Government funding covers $386,000 of the program’s total costs, while those receiving the meals donate about $189,000 annually.
Gonwa said she does not know how sequestration will affect the county’s senior nutrition program.
“Our funding could be cut enough that we can’t afford to serve 5,800 meals,” Gonwa said. “That could be nearly a month’s worth of meals.”
“I’m hoping to raise enough money to give the program a little bit of a cushion,” Enright said.
Enright is working with a local non-profit organization, Waupaca Opportunities Inc., so donations to support the county’s senior nutrition program can be tax deductible.
Checks to support the program should be made out to Waupaca Opportunities Inc. and mailed to Waupaca County Courthouse, Department of Health and Human Services, 811 Harding St., Waupaca, WI 54981 Attn: Christie Gonwa.
Go to www.iceagetrailhiker2013.wordpress.com for updates on Enright’s journey.