Oct. 9 hunger walk stocks ministry's food pantry

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One thing Renee Weaver is passionate about is helping people.

"I love making sure people have what they need," she said. At 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, Weaver will walk with others on her church team, Thomas Chapel AME Zion Church, in this year's Walk for Hunger Relief as a way to raise awareness of hunger needs in the community and to raise money so that Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry can alleviate the problem.

When Weaver got involved with the walk four years, she recruited others from her church.  Now, the church regularly fields a large team, including walkers of all ages. This year, the church's choir will sing at the start of the event.

As a member of the walk's steering committee, Weaver regularly talks up the cause, in part to solicit contributions from businesses and individuals to help Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry meet its event fundraising goal of $45,000, the largest goal in the walk's 11-year history.

One of the Valley's longtime fundraisers, enjoyed during the cooler fall weather, the annual Walk for Hunger Relief will gather hundreds of people in a show of caring and community spirit.

Everyone is invited to participate to walk at whatever pace they and/or their team want. Twenty teams from area churches and one hiking team have already signed up, according to Cheryl Wilson, the ministry's executive director.

Gentry Heating and Cooling again serves as key event business sponsor and has encouraged other businesses to join in the business effort. Gentry Heating is matching all top-level business contributions (as of mid last week, 30 $250, or top-level, business sponsors have signed on). With significant support from Gentry and other businesses, close to half of the fundraising goal has been met, Wilson said.

"The event planning committee has done an outstanding job, and our businesses and churches have stepped up," she said.

The walk offers one- and four-mile routes that will take participants through Black Mountain neighborhoods, the downtown commercial district and around Lake Tomahawk.

The walk raises funds to help the ministry stock its pantry, enabling it to offer a client's choice" style of pantry. Many of the items are donated by businesses and individuals. But each week, items such as eggs, cheese and butter are purchased from local stores, as are items needed to stock low shelves, Wilson said.

"This year we have already spent over $25,000 for food," she said. The pantry has seen an average of 381 families a month the first eight months of this year, she said, and fed an average of 911 people each month. Food is typically one of the first items people cut down on when they're stretched for cash, Wilson said. The ministry's food pantry helps ensure no one goes hungry in the Swannanoa Valley, she said.

Participants, who are advised to come dressed for the forecast weather, are encouraged to secure pledged contributions to Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry prior to the walk, Wilson said. Money collected should be turned in to the team's coordinator. If someone is walking individually, he or she can turn it in during registration or afterward at SVCM.

To receive a registration form in advance, contact Wilson at svcmdirector@gmail.com, or merely show up at the event. Anyone wishing to make a contribution without walking can drop off money at the ministry (101 N. Ridgeway Ave., Black Mountain) or mail it in. The ministry van will be at First Baptist Church during the event to receive food donations as well, Wilson said.

"The hunger walk is so meaningful to me because it brings the congregations, organizations and individuals of the Valley together for a common purpose - to help put food on the tables of those who are challenged to do so," said event co-chair Bill Walker, noting that the walk is the ministry's big fundraising event each year. "I am amazed by the generosity of the businesses and community members we have already seen for this year's event," said Walker.

The Walk for Hunger Relief stemmed from the original world hunger relief fundraising walk event known as the Crop Walk, a program of Church World Service.

"About 10 years ago, our committee made an important shift to allow all the funds to go more directly to this community's hunger needs, instead of meeting both local and world hunger needs," Walker said. "Now, 90 percent will go to the SVCM food ministry, and a 10 percent tithe is given to world hunger relief."

Hungry to help?

What: Walk for Hunger Relief

When: Registration begins 1:30 p.m., walk begins 2 p.m.

Starts: First Baptist Church, Black Mountain

Questions? Cheryl Wilson, 664-9224; Bill Walker 273-0025

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