By Johnny Jackson
Organizers expect more than 10,000 metro Atlantans will take part in the 27th Annual Hunger Walk/Run to benefit area non-profits.
Officials with the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB) anticipate Hunger Walk/Run 2011 will bring out a record number of participants to help raise money and awareness for the issue of hunger.
"God takes care of us, and blesses us, and we, in turn, need to take care of others, and bless other people," said Mary Beth Egas, team leader for St. Luke Lutheran Church in McDonough.
St. Luke has participated in the annual fund-raising event since the church's inception nine years ago. The church has a walk/run team of 18 individuals, who plan to take part in the event, to be held March 13.
The event is organized by the food bank and five other local hunger-relief programs -- the Episcopal Charities Foundation, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Lutheran Services of Georgia, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, and St. Vincent De Paul Society.
The Atlanta Community Food Bank has helped organize the Hunger Walk/Run, since it began in 1984 as a small volunteer event, to address hunger issues. The walk will begin at Turner Field's Green Lot, where participants will begin the 5K walk, and run through downtown Atlanta. Gates open at noon, and the walk/run steps off at 2 p.m.
"The Hunger Walk/Run is one of our most important fundraisers each year," said Bill Bolling, founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. "As a number of recent studies have shown, more and more people are struggling to put food on the table. The money raised at this event will help us continue to meet the growing need here in metro Atlanta, now and in the coming months."
The event's mantra is "Hunger -- Walk for It -- Not Away from It," according to organizers, who cite statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey report, released in September 2010, states that nearly 1.6 million Georgians are living in poverty, up from 1.4 million in 2008. ACFB reported its distribution to more than 700 non-profit partner agencies also increased over that time, by 40 percent.
"One of our big commitments at St. Luke is responding to hunger needs in our community," said Mary Beth Egas, of St. Luke's in McDonough. "I've walked in the Hunger Walk since it started."
For about the past six weeks, members of Egas's walk/run team have collected pledges, sponsorships, and raised funds in support of the "fight hunger" cause.
"We consider it a great responsibility and privilege to do this," she said. "We usually start in January getting the team together, and we talk it up. For a small church, we do well."
Egas said the small group of St. Luke walkers and runners is able to raise about $1,000 each year, despite economic woes that make garnering support more difficult.
"Last year, was a little bit less [than the norm]," she said. "I think people have had to work extra-hard to get donations outside the church. We always want to shoot for over $1,000. We've probably raised close to $10,000 over the years."
While "day-of" registration will be available, participants are encouraged to register online at www.HWR2011.org, and invite friends and family to join them at the event, or make a donation. There is no charge for walkers to participate, but a $25 donation is encouraged, and those donating or collecting $25, or more, will receive an official Hunger Walk/Run 2011 T-shirt.
For more information on Hunger Walk/Run 2011, visit www.HWR2011org, call (404) 892-3333 ext. 1246, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.