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Posted on October 12, 2010

Hunger walk aids Richmond residents

By Natalie Estrada, staff writer

RICHMOND - Students, adults, children and family pets joined in the 24th annual Harmony Walk to end hunger Saturday in attempt to raise awareness of the problems that are happening in the community.

For the fourth year, Chevron of Richmond sponsored the event that was held in the Civic Center Plaza. Since the event began at 8 a.m., free breakfast was provided, offering walkers pancakes, their choice of bacon or sausage and a side of cantaloupe.

Director of the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) Kia Croom organized the event. She brought together all the exhibitors that came representing their organizations, schools and the people.

"(I attended the walk) to support GRIP, which is a fine organization that does a lot of good work, and to let people know about our school (St. Jerome Catholic School)," volunteer Marla Korte said.

GRIP helps the hungry and the homeless by providing a place for them to get food and shelter. They have a 75-bed capacity emergency shelter and eight other studios that are for families that have no place to stay. They run a soup kitchen that feeds up to 300 people a day and are available 365 days a year. It is an organization of religious congregations that have one common goal: end hunger and homelessness.

"I think it's good," participant Kerry Moriarty said. "It's helping people that don't have food to eat by keeping shelters open in Richmond."

Carrows Restaurant in El Cerrito sponsored the free breakfast, serving up 1,000 pancakes made by General Manager Mark Yonemura.

"I started making the pancakes at 3 a.m. We (at Carrows) definitely like helping out the community," Yonemura said.

Clubs from all around Richmond and more than 25 exhibitors joined in the ceremony. A group of young adults from the club Play Works helped by blowing up balloons and getting things ready for the event. They cheered as walkers started their way around the block, handing out free bottles of water for the three-mile walk.

"I'm out here to promote a healthy community and, you know, just to have fun," volunteer for Play Works Khai Chatfield said.

Also on hand was a disc jockey from the radio station KDYA 1190 AM The Light. The music played had the guests grooving and had others singing along. DJ Brotha Phil called all the walkers to attention, then announced different speakers, one of whom was Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. She spoke before the crowd, letting the community know that she was with them and was ready to walk for change.

Boot camp instructor Omari Williams, also known as "Coach O," had all the walkers get on the grass and do stretches and jumping jacks before the walk. The music pumped up the participants and they were ready for the walk.

The children were provided multiple activities for their enjoyment, including a jumper that they could enter and exit as they pleased. Two ponies were provided by Horse Paradise in El Sobrante, though one of them was not participating because he wanted to run instead of walking at an easy pace with a child on board.

There were also two rabbits that the children could feed and pet. All of these activities were free and allowed the children to have fun and experience new things.

The organization West County Reads was there, allowing kids to pick gently used books to either read for the time being or keep.

"I think this is the second time we've been here at GRIP," West County Reads board member Tana Monteiro said. "We get to as many community events as possible."

The Kiwanis Club of Richmond gathered all their volunteers to help at the event. The club helps students get out and help their community.

Jamersina Preston is one of the adult volunteers and the person that brought Kiwanis to Richmond High School. She now works at Lovonya Dejean Middle school, where many of the kids that go to school there are homeless. She attended the event not only to volunteer, but to let others know about the percentage of students who come from homeless families.

"I think it's a great event. I used to work at GRIP, so this event is really special to me," community engagement specialist for Chevron Andrea Bailey said.

The Contra Costa County's homeless population totals more than 4,157 people. Out of these numbers 53 percent are children.

Contact Natalie Estrada at

PO Box 5284,  Richmond, CA 94805
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