Supporters walk to raise money for food and shelter needs

More than 500 walkers, with posters and pets in tow, took to the streets Sunday as Inland Valley Hope Partner’s Walk for the Hungry returned to Claremont for its 39th consecutive fundraising 5K.

Technicolor balloons and shirts brightened up an otherwise gloomy afternoon as a record number of participants crowded behind the starting line at the Claremont University Consortium for the local food bank’s annual fall fundraiser. The threat of rain didn’t seem to dampen spirits as walkers from all over the Inland Empire showed up to bring awareness to the area’s growing food and shelter needs.

“It’s our responsibility to help others in need,” said Gabi Diaz, at the walk with her mom as representatives of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Chino.

Walkers ventured through the streets of Claremont—from Mills Avenue through the Village up to 12th Street and back—to showcase a united front against poverty. After several years holding the walk at Chaffey High School in Ontario, event organizers were pleased to bring the event back to Claremont, home to one of the nonprofit’s 4 food pantries. Event organizers hope to continue in IVHP’s past tradition of moving the walk among the different cities IVHP serves.

“It’s important to get as many people as possible throughout the region involved in the walk,” said Fran Robertson, IVHP’s resource development director, emphasizing, “Hunger is right here in our communities.”

As economic hardships continue, Ms. Robertson says the number of clients seeking IVHP’s help has increased dramatically in recent years. Every year, an estimated 80,000 people turn to IVHP for food and shelter. The annual Walk for the Hungry, once dubbed “the crop walk,” is one way of ensuring they are able to continue to meet the growing needs. Every dollar that walk participants raise will leverage about 5 pounds of food, according to Ms. Robertson.

“Every penny counts,” she affirmed.

While numbers have dropped in years past, Sunday’s showing seemed promising, according to Ms. Robertson.

“Claremont might be our good luck charm,” she said.

For the past several months, youth group members of Upland United Methodist Church, who arrived at the walk donning matching neon shirts, have been busy raising nearly $400 for those in need beyond their church congregation.

“It helps get them involved in the community, beyond the walls of the church,” said youth director Monalisa Siofele, who has been attending the Walk for the Hungry with her youth group for the last 5 years. She noted that while not all can donate monetarily to the cause, “we can all do something.”

Eighth graders of El Roble Intermediate School’s California Junior Scholarship Federation are embracing this idea, attending volunteer events throughout the city and community.

“It’s fun. You get to hang out with your friends and you get the chance to give back,” said club president Michael Lach, accompanied by pals Erandi Chavez, Antonia Perez, Alyson Comia and Camille Shine. Mr. Lach and friends were equipped for the walk through town with handmade signs after taking advantage of the event’s sign-making table.

Walkers were treated to plenty of before-and-after activities, face painting and sign making included. The In-N-Out truck provided needed sustenance and a special visit from Tremor, the crocodile mascot for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes baseball team, gave participants some added entertainment. Beyond getting the chance to raise money and awareness, event organizers were pleased to be able to bring IVHP’s volunteers and community groups together in a collective display of support.

“It’s all about the camaraderie,” Ms. Robertson said. “It’s one time a year we can all come together to raise awareness.”

For those unable to participate in person, an information and donation link for the Walk for the Hungry page will continue to run on the IVHP website for the next 2 months. Those who wish to make a contribution can do so by visiting www.inlandvalleyhopepartners.org.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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