Our gem of the valley, Mount Diablo, has been a great source of beauty and recreation for folks and will continue to be for generations to come.

Hikers especially find the serene landscape of rolling hills, which change colors along with the seasons, to be a perfect place to get exercise and soothe the soul. And whether you're an avid hiker or weekend warrior, Shelter, Inc. of Contra Costa County is inviting the public to bask in the beauty of the mountain and help raise awareness for the organization, which helps prevent homelessness for residents in our county by providing resources to get them back on their feet. The annual Hike for Shelter is Oct. 19, and I spoke with Shelter, Inc. Event Coordinator Chris Flitter, who told me that they are excited about the hike. I asked her if the fire on Mount Diablo hindered the hiking event last year.

"We are looking forward to a great turnout again this year, and the fire didn't hinder anything last year. It just added new scenery, and this year should be beautiful. We're expecting a lot of wildflowers to pop up," said Chris.

She told me that a number of dedicated Alamo residents are helping with the event. One of the volunteers, Kelli Durante, told me she got involved with Shelter, Inc. after fellow Alamo resident Louise Evenson enlightened her about the organization.

"Louise invited me to tour the Shelter facilities and meet their executive director, Tim O'Keefe ... Shelter's mission to prevent homelessness in our county spoke to me," said Kelli, who shared that she knew a local family who lost their home due to a job loss and she realized it can happen to anyone.


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"I remember thinking, 'This could happen in our community. What do people do who don't have extended family to lean on or a financial safety net?' " added Kelli, who learned during her tour that Shelter, Inc. fills that void. "I learned that Shelter becomes extended family for those in our community who need a hand up after suffering an unprecedented setback from a long illness or job loss," said Kelli.

Because Kelli is an avid hiker, Shelter approached her about joining the Hike for Shelter committee. Fellow committee member and Alamo resident Craig Chase, along with more than 20 hikers and Shelter supporters, trekked to the top of Mount Diablo, all for a good cause. Craig also said he felt a pull to help with the plight of Shelter, Inc. by Jim Cegelski, who sadly passed away from cancer after he and his wife, Wendi Cegelski, became very involved in Shelter.

"My initial interest came about because of a wine tasting jag with Cegelski. I was not one of his inner-circle friends, but every time we did get together, well let's just say that fun and trouble ensued," said Craig, jokingly. "I promised him I would help with one of his bucket list items -- he was trying to recruit others to help, and so I promised him I would get involved with Shelter," said Craig, who told me his wife, Cara, is an avid hiker as well and the whole family gets involved in the activity.

"We both come from hardworking families, but we realize that some folks don't have the same opportunities that we had, and we love the 86 percent success rate that Shelter has achieved over the years. Lives have been changed, and it is practical and compassionate. We agree that there are three things a community needs to provide for all its members: food, shelter and education. Shelter (Inc.) provides all three," added Craig.

For more information about Hike for Shelter and to register, go to www.Shelterhike.org. Craig summed up the awesome day perfectly. "This once was a little event of 28 hikers. This year, we will have over 250 hikers and volunteers on the mountain, and the lunch and celebration in Oak Hill Park afterward will warm your heart. It's kids, families and clients with success stories of how our efforts changed their lives."

Contact Caterina Mellinger at around- alamo@hotmail.com.