Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry gears up for annual Walk for Hunger Relief

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
Hundreds of community members prepare to "Walk for Hunger Relief" at First Baptist Church of Black Mountain, in 2018. The annual event, which supports the food pantry at Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, will return on Oct. 13.

Nearly 800 million people around the world face food insecurity. Thirty-seven million Americans are unsure where their next meal will come from. In Buncombe County, 12% of the 258,000 residents are hungry.  

On the east end of the county, few organizations understand those needs on the local level like the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, which will hold its annual Walk for Hunger Relief in the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Black Mountain from 1 - 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13, to support its mission of helping area residents in need. 

The annual event, through the support of area businesses, raises money for SVCM Food Pantry, which serves an average of 778 people in 359 households each month, according to SVCM Executive Director Cheryl Wilson.  

The program, which allows families and individuals regular trips to stock up on food, served 2,224 people from more than 1,000 households from January - mid-September of this year. 

The one-mile Walk for Hunger Relief is the food pantry's biggest fundraiser, according to manager Chuck Williams.

"It's our major fundraiser that allows us to buy the food we need for the pantry," said Williams, who also serves as SVCM's volunteer coordinator. "It's critical to helping the needs of food insecure folks in eastern Buncombe County. This Walk for Hunger is so valuable to us, because the money we raise helps us set next year's budget."

Hundreds of people wearing purple shirts walk along State Street in Black Mountain in the 2018 Walk for Hunger Relief. The event, which supports the food pantry at Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, will return on Oct. 13.

The event raised more than $42,000 in 2018, when it featured around 500 walkers, Wilson said. 

"One of the things we do with the money we raise is give 5% to Bounty & Soul and 5% to MANNA FoodBank, to show our appreciation for all they do for us to help alleviate hunger in our community," Wilson said. 

The SVCM Food Pantry is open from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Clients can come in every 21 days to replenish their supplies. 

"They can shop for what they want, we don't bag up things and tell them what they have to take," Williams said. "We give them the choice to pick and choose what their families need."

The support needed by those who utilize the pantry varies widely, he continued. 

"Some people come in once or twice, and we don't see them again because they get back on their feet," Williams said. "Others come more consistently because they have a limited income."

SVCM provides emergency services for area residents who are struggling to make ends meet. 

"Anybody from Oteen, east to the McDowell County line and down to Fairview, can come to us," Williams said. "We're the sole provider of these kinds of emergency services on this side of Buncombe County."

This year's Walk for Hunger Relief, which is sponsored by The Red Radish and Little Sprout Carryout, AdventHealth, Hedrick Industries, the Black Mountain-Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce and the town's police and fire departments, will include a Community Day. 

Participants in the 2018 Walk for Hunger Relief raised more than $42,000 for the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry Food Pantry. The annual fundraiser will return on Oct. 13.

"The police department and fire department will have their vehicles there and we'll have a bounce house from the town," Wilson said. "The Community Band will play at 1 p.m. and we'll be auctioning off five of the rocking chairs from the chamber of commerce."

T-shirts for the walk were designed by Asheville Christian Academy fourth-grader Emerson Murray, who received $100 when her submission was selected by the committee that organizes the event. 

The walk begins at 2 p.m. and participants can register the day of the event. Walkers can be sponsored by friends and family. 

"This is such an important event for us and we are grateful for the support of the community," Wilson said. "We look forward to another Walk for Hunger Relief."