Locals Brave Snow to ‘Walk Against Hunger’
Light mist began falling on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive just as walkers set off for a 3-mile trek on the morning of April 9th. The rain quickly turned to freezing slush and eventually to snow, which, despite falling in earnest through much of the walk, didn’t dampen the spirits of the approximately 1,000 people who turned out to support Thomas’ Walk Against Hunger.
“When it rains, somebody’s still hungry. When it snows, somebody’s still hungry,” said the Rev. Elizabeth Marie Griffin of Gibson Temple Baptist Church in North Philadelphia before the walk’s kickoff. “This weather only encouraged us more to press harder and come out today.”
Gibson choir members opened the pre-walk festivities and were later joined by other church choirs and bands, as walkers clapped and danced along in front of the Eakins Oval main stage.
“The energy is great, despite the weather,” said Tom Mahon, communications manager of event organizer Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, which is located in Fairmount.
The dreary weather forecast may have kept some people away — previous walks have brought in between 2,000-3,000 people — but Mahon said many supporters were eager to participate, no matter the elements.
“When we saw the forecast, we told people we’d still be walking rain or shine, or snow as it turns out,” Mahon said. “We had a lot of people calling in the last few days to check if it was still on and, as soon as we told them yes, they said, ‘OK great, we’ll be there.’ Everyone who’s here is thrilled to be here. Everyone’s here for the same reason: to walk against hunger.”
As we’ve mention in previous coverage, the 20th-annual walk raised funds for 97 beneficiaries, including food pantries, soup kitchens and hunger-relief organizations throughout the region. Supporters of such groups were encouraged to organize teams to walk in the event and solicit pledges, which will go directly to each team’s beneficiary.
Fundraising totals weren’t tallied yet, but at the start of the event, Mahon said online donations were running about $5,000 more than at that time last year; the 2015 event brought in $258,000 for all of the participating agencies.
The Church of Christian Compassion at 62nd and Cedar in Cobbs Creek was a returning beneficiary.
Congregation members work with Philabundance two days a week to feed the hungry in the community and have seen firsthand the effects of hunger on Philadelphians.
“This event brings awareness that a lot of people just don’t have the income,” said church member Pearl Kemp. “They’re living paycheck to paycheck and have to make the decisions to pay bills or buy food and, of course, they’ll pay bills. Events like this help people to be able to eat on a daily basis.”
Griffin of Temple Baptist Church said her congregants also encounter the issue of hunger, through the church’s feeding ministry. The program provides fresh fruits, vegetables and meats, as well as clothing, to more than 100 people each week.
“We know the impact when seniors have to choose between buying medication and eating,” Griffin said. “Most times, they’ll choose to go without eating. We want to provide whatever we can to supplement that difference so people won’t have to make that choice.”
Griffin added that the longevity of Thomas’ Walk Against Hunger — as well as the level of involvement it generates from all corners of the city — is a telling sign of the depth and breadth of the epidemic of hunger.
“There is a great need,” she said. “This walk speaks loudly to let people know that hunger in the city of Philadelphia is very real. You can come and go anywhere in Center City and see somebody who’s hungry. You can see just by today and the attendance here that hunger is an area that this city needs to address.”
That message was also one Jan Lazrow and Sheldon Glassman took away from the event.
The pair volunteered as greeters on behalf of Concerned Citizens of Center City; Lazrow is a return volunteer and Glassman was a first-timer.
“I’m new to the area so I’m happy to see how many organizations and how many people are concerned with helping people in need,” Glassman said. “I think we can make a difference.”
Supporters can still donate to walk teams through the end of May at the event website, www.hungercoalition.org/hungerwalk. People who want to support hunger-relief efforts can also check out the Coalition’s Fighting Hunger Together section, www.hungercoalition.org/hunger-philadelphia.