Willimantic, Conn. – On the morning of Friday, Sept. 19, students and faculty gathered outside the Student Center at Eastern Connecticut State University to run a marathon to show of support for the 46.2 million people in the United States living in poverty. The goal of the Poverty Awareness Marathon, organized by the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), was to collect 462 nonperishable food items to donate to the local Covenant Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry in Willimantic.
A donation was required to register for the 26.5 mile run around campus, with each lap consisting of 1.2 miles. Participants were encouraged to come and go as their schedule permitted. Donations of money and children’s books were also accepted, as well as pledges to read to children at Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) on campus.
Luis Rodriguez, assistant director of the CCE, was impressed with the turnout. “This is the first major volunteer event of the year. Professors brought their entire classes — clubs and sports teams came out, too,” he said. “The event showed that there is a community beyond Eastern. Eastern and Willimantic— we’re one big community here.”
Professor Charlie Chatterton, department chair of the Health and Physical Education Department, has been instrumental in the marathon’s success since the beginning. The marathon was number 57 in his Take Strides to “Brake” the Cycle of Poverty Marathon initiative, a personal crusade in which Eastern has played an important role. “As a group, we collectively completed more than 667 miles and collected 561 nonperishable food items for the Covenant Soup Kitchen,” said Chatterton. “It took about five and a half hours to complete, but we had stops along the way to visit the CDFRC to run with the kids, and often took breaks at the exchange point every 1.2 miles.”
More than 300 students took time out of their busy schedules to take part. CCE student leader and event organizer Lily Egan ’15, a communications major from Colchester, said, “I’m so impressed by the amount of compassion and community spirit all of the students and all participants have shown. I’m proud to go to a school that comes together like this.”