Minister takes walk so homeless won't have to 24-hour trek to benefit shelter

June 24, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

At 9 a.m. yesterday, the Rev. Bob Wagner was off and walking.

No starter's pistol preceded his test of stamina. As he began his personal 24-hour Walk to Save the Shelter for Carroll County's homeless, Mr. Wagner preferred a taped blast of "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

"I am going to walk until I can't anymore," said the 32-year-old minister. "I hope walking, something I enjoy, will directly benefit the needs of folks in Carroll County."

Around and around the Westminster High School track, he kept a steady pace.

An hour later, he broke into a sweat as he logged his eighth lap around the quarter-mile track.

Every step of the way, the pastor of Emmanuel Baust Lutheran Church in Tyrone who also works for Human Services Programs of Carroll County, will be collecting pledges for the homeless. He hoped that when he finally rests at 9 a.m. today, he can deliver a few thousand dollars to the Family Shelter, operated by Human Services.

Pledges and cash already total about $1,000, and organizers expect many more contributions. A fishbowl near the track was filling with donations.

"No contribution is too small," said Mr. Wagner. "If everyone in Carroll County gave 50 cents, the shelter could remain open for more than a year."

He said $28 pays for one "bed-night" -- 24 hours in a shelter -- per person.

"This is a really unique fund-raiser and it's getting everyone's attention," said Staci Knoerlein, a co-worker.

The balmy weather provided the perfect atmosphere, said Mr. Wagner. Although he had scheduled a rain date, he was not surprised when the humidity dropped and the breeze blew gently.

"We Lutherans have a direct line," he said with a laugh. But he added a somber note.

"The homeless often spend days and nights outdoors in dire weather, with only trees or a car for cover. The shelter program helps them get their lives back together."

Ms. Knoerlein interrupted with a shout, "Sun block, you need sun block."

Well into yesterday afternoon, the minister never missed a step. Ms. Knoerlein handed him a tube as he walked past his supply table.

The table was piled with high-energy snacks, coolers of iced fruit drinks, soups, a few changes of clothing, a first-aid kit -- complete with blister remedies -- and a checkered flag for the finish line.

He seldom walked alone. Volunteers staffed the supply table or walked along to keep him company.

Before nightfall, Mr. Wagner's wife and two children joined him in the walk. The family and several members of the congregation planned to camp out overnight at the school.

"It is important that children see the need for social outreach," Mr. Wagner said. "It is one way of living your faith."

While his children might sleep in a tent, there was to be no rest for the reverend. He planned to walk on.

Another co-worker left the track with a promise to return at 5 a.m.

"I'll be here unless they cart me away," said Mr. Wagner.

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