Mannathon Raises Money And Awareness For Ministry
by Gene Marrano
The Manna Ministries Food Bank in Vinton is $20,000 better off, after that amount and then some was raised at the second annual “Mannathon,” a series of 8K and 5K races that was held at Fallon Park last Saturday. The course for both races (walkers also took advantage of the 5K course) made its way through the blue-collar neighborhoods of southeast Roanoke City and 8K (about five mile) racers trod for about a mile on the Tinker Creek Greenway before heading back to the finish line, which was also at Fallon Park.
Manna Ministries accepts donations of food and clothing, which is distributed to the working poor weekly during a Thursday night open house. People can come in, enjoy a hot meal, take non-perishable food items with them, including food for their dog or cat, and select items from a clothes closet. What began as a ministry of Parkway Wesleyan has expanded to include volunteers from many churches and groups.
Each month over 1,000 families wait in lines that wrap around the building to receive a box of food. In addition the families at Manna are offered clothing, toys, books, toiletry items and snacks – along with acceptance and love – from over 60 volunteers.
More than 400 people showed up to race or walk on Saturday, mostly in the 5K (3.1 miles) category. Awards were given for the top overall male and female winners (see mountainjunkies.net for a complete list of finishing times) and for the top three finishers in a number of age categories.
Vinton Mayor Brad Grose, newly reelected in an unopposed race of his own earlier in the month, was on hand to give a few opening remarks before the opening horn signaled the beginning of the two races. “Manna is just a wonderful ministry. It serves a segment of our society that needs help. It serves the working poor – that’s what I really like about it.” Grose said about 17 churches are now involved in supporting Manna Ministries, which is located on Walnut Street in Vinton. Runners went by the storefront headquarters as they raced back towards Fallon Park last Saturday.
The Town of Vinton used to make a cash donation to Manna Ministries but in these button-down times it now offers in-kind contributions like police help with crowd control at the Mannathon. Grose doesn’t mind having all those people come through Vinton either. “We’re obviously glad to see all of the runners out, the more of the merrier.” The Mannathon, noted Grose, also helps get the word out about the ministry itself.
Although Manna Ministries relies primarily on donated food and clothes for distribution to the working poor, fundraising events like the Mannathon help fill in the gaps. “Together we raised well over $25,000 for the Manna Ministries Food Bank – and we promise to stretch every penny out of every dollar raised,” Manna Ministries board chair Ron Willard noted in an e-mail the day after the race.
Volunteer Ann Sheehan, who works for Jefferson Surgical, was in charge of race registration at the Mannathon. She started volunteering last fall when her son went off to college. “There are times when we run low on food and have to purchase from the food bank,” said Sheehan. The turnout for the second annual Mannathon was about double what it was at the inaugural event in 2011, according to Sheehan. “[I’m] very impressed.”
A number of churches signed up groups for the Mannathon, whether they were running or walking. Several of them toured the Manna Ministries building before the race. There was even a spirited competition between several Presbyterian church groups. Sheehan kidded that Presbyterians are competitive by nature, and that her own church – 2nd Presbyterian – will have to get involved next year. A number of runners pulled double duty, also racing later on in the day at the Gallop 4 the Greenways 5K, raising money for the valley’s growing greenway network.
Besides the money raised there was another benefit from the race said Sheehan – raising awareness for the overall mission, which is all about assisting the working poor: “a little bit of what we’re about.” (See more at mannathon.com.)