Mattapan's Matthews goes the distance to fight hunger

By 
Lisa Hagen, Special to the Reporter
Apr. 26, 2012

Monica MatthewsMonica MatthewsFor the past 24 years, Monica Matthews has walked 440 miles and raised over $50,000 to end hunger.

As the second highest individual online fundraiser for The Walk for Hunger, Matthews, a Mattapan resident, continues to walk each year to support Project Bread, the Massachusetts anti-hunger organization.

In 1988, Matthews was encouraged to participate in The Walk for Hunger, the 20-mile walk that began in 1969, when a co-worker asked her to join a team. Once she learned about the program, she said she was in shock because she could not imagine anyone in the state or country being hungry. She “choked and teared up” because her two children were ages 6 and 8 at the time, and she said she could never imagine them hungry.

“My motivation is just hoping to one day end hunger in this state through different incentive programs and by showing people how to start little gardens, cook healthy meals, and buy good foods,” she said.

A native Bostonian who also lived in the South End, Dorchester, and Roxbury, Matthews has participated in other charitable walks around the city including the breast cancer walk and March of Dimes, which raises money for premature babies. Despite the weather being different each year, Matthews said the walk is easy for her since she maintains a good physical condition.

“I look forward to it every year, and thousands of people participate for the same cause, which is very exciting,” she said. “Most people are not just walking raise money to help neighbors.”

Since 2004, she has raised at least $5,000 each year, which goes to Project Bread’s hundreds of emergency food programs including food pantries and soup kitchens. She is one of the top “Heart and Sole Walkers,” which is someone who raises more than $500 a year.

Although her family and friends contribute, Matthews said the bulk of her donations come from her co-workers especially since many have participated in the Walk in the past. She said they used to have a big team through her job that eventually dwindled, but she said they are supportive to help achieve her “reasonable goal.”  

“Family members have walked with me once in a while, but I have also done a few on my own,” Matthews said. “You never feel like you’re alone because the crowd is happy and friendly and I always ran into someone I knew.”

Matthews said she will always be involved in the Walk until they end hunger. As long as she is “well and able,” she will continue walking every year or at least raise money and do something within Project Bread.

According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 253,600 households in the state are at risk for hunger.

“This is the United States, which is supposed to be richest, best country, and I didn’t understand why there was so much hunger around us,” Matthews said. “Hopefully, we won’t have to worry about raising millions for people to have a normal meal every night.”

Currently, she has raised $5,122 for this year’s walk on May 6, and said she will continue to raise more money despite already reaching her goal.

If you want to donate, go to http://www.projectbread.org/goto/monica.

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