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Warthen Fuel employees walk to raise funds for Arbutus nonprofit

By Katie V. Jones

4:45 PM EDT, September 27, 2012

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The idea took to foot in the Warthen Fuel office in Violetville five years ago and has occurred every year since.

On Sept. 26, the tradition continued as employees of the 79-year-old company and their families walked through Arbutus to raise money for the Southwestern Emergency Services nonprofit.

"We were speaking around the office about how we could do something in our community," said Patty Nagel, office manager for the company on Benson Avenue and organizer of the walk."SWES purchases oil from us for people in need. We give back to a customer and they help local families."

The two-mile walk begins at Nagel's Arbutus house, where this year Nagel was joined by her husband, Bryan, and two sons, Brandon, 7, and Payton, 2.

From there, the group proceeded along the town's main streets, including Francis Avenue, Carville Avenue and Sulphur Spring Road.

The group included Warthen employee Christina Umstead, a Baltimore Highlands resident, and her son, Tyler, 2, as well as Violetville residents Chad Decker, who has been known to walk to work as the company's accounts manager from home, Natasha Flinchum and Taylor Warthen.

In the beginning, the walks would end at Rita's snowball stand on East Drive.

This year, like last year, the walk ended at Chick-fil-A in Lansdowne Station where the store donated a percentage of its sales from Wednesday evening to SWES.

"We were very pleased with the response at Chick-fil-A," Nagel said. "There was a line to the door. That was very good."

Walkers gathered pledges and Warthen sent out slips in their August and September billings asking for donations. While Nagel does not have records from the first year's walk, last year, the company raised $890 for SWES. In 2009, the group collected $2,175.

This year, the walk raised $670. That total will change once the proceeds from Chick-fil-A and late-arriving donations are added in.

"They do great," said Betty Okonski, director of SWES, about Warthen. "Anything that can bring money into this ministry is a good thing. We're struggling. A lot of groups like ours are going under."

SWES helps people in the neighborhood who are struggling financially pay utility bills, help with eviction protection and provide food and clothing.

"We are always busy," Okonski sad. "There is no end to it."

Nagel hopes to open the walk up to more than the Warthen group in the future. Right now, only Warthen employees can participate as the company has not created forms regarding liability for others to sign. Everyone is welcome to participate at Chick-fil-A..

"We saw people from the church community, the corporation, families of the employees," Nagel said of the gathering at Chick-fil-A. "Chick-fil-A does a lot for the community and the food is good."

While there were only nine walkers this year, Nagel was grateful for the interest.

"For a company with 28 employees, some of them still have to run the company while we are traversing through the streets of Arbutus," Nagel laughed. "We were pleased it was sunny. Everything went well."