By Mike LaBella
---- — More than 60 people from Haverhill, along with hundreds from Lawrence, Methuen and the Andovers, will descend on Boston this weekend for the Project Bread walk to raise money for hungry people.
For some, it will be a new experience, but for many the walk has become a tradition.
A team from Haverhill’s Emmaus Inc. homeless shelters led by Gretchen Artnz, chief development officer for Emmaus, will be in this year’s walk. Emmaus staff and volunteers have participated in past walks as well.
Team “Walk to Emmaus” has a few newcomers this year, including AmeriCorps/Vista volunteers Alexandra Elwell and Gabriella Berger.
“It’s an amazing cause,” Elwell said about Sunday’s 20-mile walk. “Project Bread supports Emmaus, so we want to support Project Bread.”
The 46th annual Walk for Hunger begins and ends at Boston Common. The walk route weaves through Boston, Brookline, Newton, Watertown and Cambridge. Local entertainment and water stops will help keep the walkers going throughout the day and educational elements will help walkers learn more about the lack of food available to needy people and the range of solutions.
About 40,000 people are expected to take part in the walk, including the Chinmaya Walkers team from Andover, which has about 350 members ranging in age from 4 to more than 70. They raised $29,000 last year and, as of May 1, had raised $27,000 in pledges and donations for this year’s walk.
They were the third-largest group participating last year and included 16 children under the age of 10 who walked the entire 20 miles. The team has participated in the walk since 2007.
“There’s a lot of internal excitement, with team members selling T-shirts and children collecting pledges,” said team member Dilip Mathur of Lexington. “Last year, one child raised $1,700.”
The Chinmaya Walkers team represents the members of Chinmaya Mission Boston, located at 1 Union St., Andover, and their families and friends. Chinmaya Mission is a global spiritual organization which aims to teach people about the philosophical basis of Hinduism, and encourages them to make a positive contribution to society.
Dione Reyes, a 2011 graduate of Haverhill High School, is a communications intern with Project Bread and a student at Suffolk University. There, she studies public relations and recruits other students to join the walk.
“I’ve been getting the word out about hunger in Massachusetts and what people can do to help,” Reyes said. “This will be my first walk ever, but not my last.”
Project Bread helps pay for six programs aimed at alleviating hunger in the Haverhill area: The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Haverhill, Calvary Baptist Church, Community Action Inc., Emmaus Inc., Open Hearts Ministries Inc., the Pregnancy Care Center and the Salvation Army.
More than 1,500 people from The Eagle-Tribune’s readership area took part in last year’s walk and raised a total of $192,340.
Josiane Ferreira of Lawrence is a member of Team Teradyne, which is participating in its 10th year as a team. Since 2004, the team has raised more than $158,000. This year, the group has raised nearly $10,000 so far.
This will be Ferreira’s ninth year participating. She said she walks because of the support Project Bread provides to Lazarus House, a shelter in Lawrence that provides a range of services to those in need.
“It’s also important to me because in Brazil, where I come from, my family was helped by an organization similar to Project Bread,” Ferreira said. “This is a way to return the favor.”
46th annual Project Bread Walk for Hunger
Oldest continual pledge walk in the country
Goal of raising $3.5 million
20-mile walk begins and ends at Boston Common
Provides money for a wide range of anti-hunger programs
More than 40,000 people expected to participate
To register for the walk or donate, visit www.projectbread.org or call 617-723-5000