The operations director for Love INC grinned as she coaxed participants into smiling for the camera when they finished their walk at Harvest Bible Church.
The sun peeked out and people started wrapping their discarded raincoats around their waists.
Organizing committee member Blair Miller, who was handling registration, said 265 people participated in the weather-dependent event last year and it looked they were getting a good-sized group Sunday, since the rain stopped early that afternoon.
The organizers said the fundraising event usually brings in between $25,000 to $30,000 annually. Twenty-five percent of those funds are distributed to local food pantries such as Love INC, Salvation Army and The People Center.
The rest of the money is distributed through Church World Service and is used for things like buying pigs or installing a well for people in third world countries, Laarman said.
Participants gathered at the church for registration and a bite to eat before heading out the door on either a one or four-mile walk.
“Typically we try to do a light lunch with broth or bread before the walk,” Laarman said.
“The walk represents what people might have to do to get water,” she said. “The bread/broth is to represent all that people might have to eat in one day.”
Jeff Hodge of Ferrysburg brought his son and daughter along for the trip.
“This is our second year,” said the member of Second Christian Reformed Church of Grand Haven.
“We just walked for people’s hunger,” said his son, Ethan, 12.
“My mom said – and I think she’s right – this is how far people had to walk every day for water,” said 10-year-old Alex Hodge.
Ten high school students and two leaders from the First Christian Reformed Church of Grand Haven trekked the shorter route for the first time as a group, said youth leader Brendan McClenahan.
“This group raised around $230,” he said.
Steve and Cindy Movesian of Grand Haven, members of St. Mary’s Church in Spring Lake, said they were participating for their third year in a row.
“I work at the food pantry here at St. Mary’s,” Cindy said as they walked along Exchange Street by the church. “I’ve seen a lot of poor people. People who come to the pantry are so grateful.”
Steve said when he retires, he hopes he can work at the food pantry too.
“I’m doing it (the walk) to give back to the community,” he said.
Church World Service liason Lary Jackson said, “It’s been 39 years we’ve been doing this. It’s a great community effort.”
Laarman said the committee would meet in the next week to come up with the total amount of funds raised.