Thousands of participants gathered to raise awareness and funds for a long standing issue in the Atlanta community. More than 15,000 people came out to Turner Field for the 5K Hunger Walk/Run and tackle the fight against hunger. Participants walked and ran through Downtown Atlanta in the 29th annual race.
Every year, the Atlanta Community Food Bank joins five other faith-based organizations to put on the Hunger Walk/Run. The race prides itself on being one of the few events in the Atlanta area that benefits more than one organization. Last year, the walk raised over $560,000. This year’s goal was $600,000.
While the Food Bank has not yet tallied up the funds donated this year, online donations can still be made through March 31. Those donating can choose which of the benefiting partners they want the money to go to.
Benefiting partners include the Episcopal Charities Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Lutheran Services of Georgia, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta and St. Vincent de Paul, Inc. Donations can be made under the ‘Donate’ tab on the organizations website www.acfb.org. All of the proceeds collected from the event will benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank and its benefiting partners.
The Hunger Walk also prides itself on its longevity. The walk began in 1984 and was coordinated by the founder of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Bill Bolling. Initially, the Hunger Walk was a grassroots movements started in response to local and global issues with hunger. In 1988, the Hunger Walk/Run became a “special project” of the Food Bank.
“The Hunger Walk basically started with a small group of people who met up at Piedmont Park,” said Angie Clawson, public relations manager for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. “Bill wanted to bring together people who supported the food bank and supported the cause of fighting hunger.”
Now, 29 years later and Bolling’s vision of bringing together the community to tackle one of the world’s biggest issues is still a success.
Bolling called the Hunger Walk/Run “one of the Food Bank’s most important fundraises each year.” Many of the Food Bank’s benefiting partners have been involved with the Hunger Walk/Run since it began.
“We have been partners with the Food Bank for at least 20 years now,” said Ginny Heckel who currently serves as the chair of board of directors for the Episcopal Charities Foundation. “We are considered the giving arm. We follow the Matthew Mandate, which comes from Matthew 28:16-20. The Mandate says take care of the least among us and that’s what we strive to do.”
Each benefiting partner will receive a percentage of the proceeds collected to support their direct hunger relief programs such as food pantries, soup kitchens and grant programs.
The Episcopal Charities Foundation plans to distribute its portion of funds through its grant program. The Foundation usually gives between 80 and 90 grants a year to organizations such as the Northeast Georgia Food Bank and Food Pantries, New Hope House, Feeding the Valley and Good Samaritan.
St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, another longstanding partner of the Food Bank, has taken a unique approach to serving its community through 5 Family Support Centers, 10 thrift stores and 38 food pantries.
“I believe we were one of the first benefiting partners,” said Terri Medina, the director of marketing and communications for St. Vincent de Paul Georgia. “Our goal was to raise $30,000. We typically have between 350 and 400 participants from approximately 25 teams helping us raise money and feed the hungry.”
Other benefiting partners like the Lutheran Services of Georgia have even funded some of their own employees to participate in the event.
“Being an almost overly-obsessed runner, often taking my lunch breaks to run and enjoy the outside, my supervisors at Lutheran Services of Georgia thought that I would be a perfect candidate for this event,” said Chad Steinborn, who currently works as a marketing coordinator for the organization. “Also, being a volunteer with the organization with little money, they decided to sponsor me, which persuaded me even more.”
As a new Atlanta resident, Steinborn participated in the Hunger Run for the first time this year.
The Lutheran Services of Georgia has set organizational goals of continuing to feed thousands of residents in the Atlanta area, which they do every year. Last year, the church raised $12,591 at the Hunger Walk/Run and recruited more than 100 participants.
The slogan for this year’s Hunger Run/Walk was “Take the Next Step.” Organizers were determined to recruit record numbers of participants and raise more funds than ever.
Major sponsors for this year’s Hunger Walk/Run included The Arby’s Foundation, AutoTrader.com, Walmart, Georgia Power, Hall, Booth, Smith, P.C. and The Coca-Cola Company.