Students walk for homeless

About 300 GW students took to the streets of D.C. to participate in the Fannie Mae Foundation’s 13th Annual Help the Homeless 5K Walkathon Saturday morning.

Event organizers said the walk had a record attendance of 40,000, and raised $5.5 million for 204 homeless service providers in the area.

Not only did we make a difference raising funds but we all benefited from it as well, said Wendy Conti, a presidential administrative fellow who works at the GW Office of Community Service. People see the homeless and turn their heads. It was impressive to see all those (walkers) with their heads up doing the right thing.

Conti said GW students raised about $10,000.

A mix of GW student organizations marched together under a banner that read GW Walks for the Homeless. Campus groups included the GW College Democrats, Habitat for Humanity, the Neighbors Project and several sororities.

Clad in blue long-sleeve shirts with yellow lettering that read Help the Homeless Walk 2000, the sea of walkers moved slowly up Constitution Avenue passing the Capitol and traveled as far as the Pentagon before returning downtown.

Walkers donated a minimum of $10 to participate in the event. Average GW donations ranged from $25 to $30, Conti said.

Freshman Margi Bowen said she participated in the event with four students from her business class to fulfill a community service requirement for the School of Business and Public Management.

Sophomore Brian Miller, who works for Miriam’s Kitchen, one of the organizations that benefited from event proceeds, said the walk raised awareness about an important D.C. issue.

We’re all doing something productive for the homeless, he said.

Miller said he hopes the walk will encourage more people to volunteer with service organizations like Miriam’s Kitchen.

Local university students deserve credit for the walk’s success, said Esther Rege, a spokeswoman for the Fannie Mae Foundation.

The sheer volume of university students who participated and a pledge to match funds for walkers under 25 through the Fannie Mae Foundation made university students a key element to the walk’s success, she said.

More than a fifth of District residents live in poverty, according to Fannie Mae’s Web site. Over the course of a year about 15,000 people in the D.C. area will experience homelessness, according to the site.

Lindsey Ganter, a freshman and a volunteer at Martha’s Table – one of the providers that benefited from the walk – said she was impressed with the high level of GW participation.

Ganter and two of her roommates walked together.

Hopefully through the walk there can be more effective programs to address homelessness – programs that care about the homeless, she said.

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