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Eastern’s Poverty Marathon and Shoe Drive Help Local and Faraway Communities

Published on September 28, 2015

Eastern’s Poverty Marathon and Shoe Drive Help Local and Faraway Communities

There are 46.7 million people living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. On Sept. 25, Eastern Connecticut State University held its seventh annual Poverty Awareness Marathon, with a goal of collecting 467 nonperishable food items to align with the number of Americans living in poverty. Held in conjunction with the marathon was a shoe drive, which collected 93 pairs of shoes that will be sent to developing countries around the world.

Nearly 300 members of the Eastern community showed up for the marathon and donated 580 food items to Willimantic’s Covenant Soup Kitchen. “This isn’t really about the run,” said Charlie Chatterton, professor of kinesiology and physical education at Eastern. “It’s about raising awareness and realizing that there are people in our communities without enough food to eat.”

Professor Charlie Chatterton, front, amid his 60th poverty-related marathon, accompanied by Eastern students and colleagues.

Supported by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), the marathon was the university’s first large-scale community engagement event of the 2015-16 academic year, and was also meant to inspire long-term involvement and volunteerism among the student body. “This is not a one-time thing,” said Chatterton. “It’s not just about today; it’s about what happens after. We challenge the students to stay involved; there are many opportunities for community service, whether it’s reading to children or volunteering at the soup kitchen.”

This was the 60th poverty-related marathon Chatterton has run (66th marathon overall). He was first inspired by the issue years ago when his church participated in a bike ride from Manchester, CT, to Washington, D.C. called “Break the Cycle of Poverty.”
“After meeting people living in poverty, visiting soup kitchens and going to shelters, I realized it’s kids and people of all ages who are suffering,” he said. An avid runner, Chatterton decided to merge the cause with running, and that is how he eventually developed Eastern’s Poverty Awareness Marathon program.

Students, faculty and staff participated, whether for one lap or the entire 26.2 miles. Some ran, others walked. The 1.2 mile course meandered throughout campus and was lined with informational posters with statistics on poverty, food insecurity and facts about the challenges lower income people face every day. In total, the CCE calculated that 275 participants ran 531.6 miles (443 laps).

Happening simultaneously was a shoe drive in which 93 pairs of new and slightly worn shoes were donated. The drive was brought to Eastern by the Connecticut non-profit organization “1 by 1 International, Inc.,” which is partnering with “Funds2Org,” an organization that sends the shoes to developing countries. This effort reduces the number of shoes going into landfills, creates microbusinesses and “shoes the shoeless.” Shoes will be sent to countries and “micro-enterprises” throughout South America, Africa and Asia.

“I want to thank Eastern for its kind response,” said Rebekah Roy, a volunteer with 1 by 1 International and former participant of Eastern’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

Written by Michael Rouleau