DANVILLE -- It's sometimes hard to believe that just walking 18 laps around a track at a grass field could make such a difference for someone in need -- but it can.
A homeless person might get a hot meal and a bed in warm, clean shelter for the night. Or a family struggling to pay its bills may be able to bring home a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter or cans of soup to fill barren kitchen cabinets. Or someone fresh out of prison might be able to find a job and a new lease on life.
And that's why Mia Maloney, 15, and her Carondelet High School classmates Siena Armanino, Katie Kuptz and Sami Martellaro, are joining forces to coordinate a 5K walk that's aimed toward benefiting the impoverished of Contra Costa County.
The seventh annual Friends of the Poor Walk will be held on Saturday, Sept. 27 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at St. Isidore Church's grass field at 440 La Gonda Way in Danville. The event will help the needy countywide, served by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County.
"Although we live in what may seem like a wealthy community, there are people that need help," said Maloney, who with her friends and fellow co-organizers will be juniors at Carondelet High School in Concord in the fall. "And it's important to help those who are maybe not as fortunate as we are"
"And I just think it's for a good cause," said Martellaro, 16. "And we all want to support St. Vincent de Paul and what they stand for.
St. Vincent de Paul, which has 27 branches run through Catholic churches in the county, runs a free dining room in Pittsburg that serves hot meals to the needy, as well as a free medical clinic for the uninsured, day shelter, food pantries, thrift stores, housing and utility assistance, job training and placement, clothing, transportation, home visits and care to the poor.
And it served 200,000 county residents over the past fiscal year, said Barbara Hunt, development director for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County. In the past four years, the Friends of the Poor Walk has raised $10,000.
Throughout the county, "there are pockets of great wealth, and there are also pockets of deep struggle and recession," said Hunt, who has helped organize the event locally, with the help of high school student leaders in Alamo and Danville, the past several years.
"I think a lot of times kids really want to be involved in the community but sometimes, they just don't know how to, so this event has been great," she said. "And I don't really have to do much. They put the flier together, they put it out to schools and churches, and they are going to go to church groups to promote the walk -- and it's really great." And "especially at our age, it is really important to raise awareness of those who need help right here in the area," Maloney said. "So we are trying to spread the word about the walk so we can get as many people involved as possible.
Contact Joyce Tsai at 925-847-2123. Follow her at Twitter.com/joycetsainews.
What: Friends of the Poor 5K Walk to benefit the needy, served by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County
When: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sept. 27
Where: St. Isidore Church's grass field at 440 La Gonda Way, Danville
How: No administrative fees to participate in the race, but participants raise money by asking for donations or sponsorships to run
For more information or to make a pledge, log on to http://bit.ly/1qXpgY0 or www.fopwalk.org.