About 60 people sporting bright white shirts — most gleaming over layers worn to stave off the chilly Bay Area fog — walked around the Salesian High School track Saturday morning to raise money for the needy.
Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, representing six Catholic parishes in Contra Costa County, pledged a monetary donation and were welcome to walk or run as little or as much as they wanted for two hours during the fifth annual Friends of the Poor Walk/Run.
The society, which was founded in Paris in 1833 and has more than 700,000 members worldwide, provides assistance with food, rent, clothing and medical needs through personal house visits conducted by volunteers, said Nathan Martin, the walk manager for the society’s national council.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul runs similar walks worldwide — this year including three in the county — but each is run locally so that money walkers or runners raise stays local.
The walk was created as a way to raise money and bring members of the community out and together, said Stephen Krank who provides conference support for the Contra Costa district council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Although the fundraiser has been in existence for five years on a national level, Saturday’s walk in Richmond marked the first physical event in West County, Krank said.
This year’s event — which raised roughly $3,000 Krank said — was hosted by volunteers from the St. Vincent de Paul conference at St. Joseph parish in Pinole.
Six west county conferences participated including, St. Paul in San Pablo, St. Callistus in El Sobrante, St. Mark’s in San Rafael, St. Joseph in Pinole, St. Patrick in Rodeo-Hercules, St. John the Baptist in El Cerrito, St. Jerome in El Cerrito, and St. Bonaventure in Concord, according to a press release from the district council.
Of the 27 parishes in Contra Costa County — “conferences” in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Krank said 22 have food pantries. Four of the conferences host a weekly major food distribution where 80-120 families receive a weeks worth of groceries for free.
But the major feature of the society is house calls and in the Contra Costa district more than 500 volunteers visit about 22,000 households annually, Krank said.
Carl Schrober, a member of St. Joseph in Pinole, said he was searching for a way to volunteer directly with those in need in his community when he joined the society in 2006. Every month for a weeklong period, Schrober said he and another volunteer make house calls to give out food vouchers from Safeway, Lucky and FoodMaxx.
“It’s not going to be the answer to their problem, but it’ll maybe be a bit of relief,” he said.
Schrober said he was pleased with the amount of people who came out to this year’s walk at Salesian, but that next year he hopes to do more promotion.
Charisse Wan, who is a member at St. Joseph’s and helped organize the walk, said 14 people pledged online through the society’s website, but the bulk of the turnout was from people walking in the day of the event.
“To get all these conferences together has been really great,” she said. “It’s such a worthy cause.”
Salesian senior Anthony Bell took the lead during the walk, running 24 laps — six miles — in a little over an hour.
Bell was one of 12 volunteers from Salesian High School that walked either with or in place of some of the elderly parishioners at St. Callistus in El Sobrante, said Sister Mary Greenam, the coordinator of youth ministry at Salesian.
“I liked it because I got to get my workout in and help out at the same time,” Bell said. “I liked lapping my friends too.”