The 36th Annual Harmony Walk to End Hunger and Homelessness brought over 200 people to Nicholl Park in Richmond, and the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program shelter and soup kitchen a few blocks away, where attendees learned about all the work being done to feed hungry people and house those who need it. Plus, there were some amazing raffle prizes and musical gifts to enjoy all morning, while the attendees and sponsors raised at least $22,000, plus the entrance fees paid in person today are still being totalled.
The day’s work began well before 6 a.m. for volunteers, setting up tables, banners, sound systems, and more at Nicholl Park and as the sun rose and the crowds began pouring in wearing running gear and quickly donning this year’s stunning gray and orange Harmony Walk shirts. At the shelter and soup kitchen, George was power washing the sidewalk and tidying up the exterior for the visitors. Jilly De La Torre, director of the Harmony Walk, was already moving heavy objects and coordinating vendors and sponsors. By 9 a.m. the music was pumping (from both GRIP’s 400-watt sound system (and at our neighbor’s megawatt Zumba class), but that was just the beginning.
Richmond High School’s Marching Band, led by director Andrew Wilke, began arriving and setting up their table and instruments, adding energy and a beat to the day.
ABC7 anchor Julian Glover kicked off the event introducing leaders and our sponsors. GRIP Board of Directors President Pastor Dale Weatherspoon — whose day job is leading another group, Easter Hill Methodist Church— offered a non-denominational invocation. Event director De La Torre then read a land acknowledgement paying homage to the Ohlone, Miwok, Muwekma, and Confederated Villages of Lisjan peoples, whose presence both past, present, and future was recognized.
Glover introduced outgoing Interim Executive Director Jim Rettew who helped bring GRIP to a new level of professionalism and growth over the past year. Rettew quickly handed the mic over to Ralph Payton, GRIP’s permanent executive director, creating a perfect handoff and celebration of a new era for GRIP. Executive Director Ralph Payton spoke about his work and goals for the year, and then Glover got back to the big event.
At the check-in table, the dedicated team of Karen Moorhead, Julie Anderson, and Wilma Grant from Hope Lutheran Church, one of the founding congregations of GRIP, quickly took donations and handed out t-shirts–gray with an autumnal orange writing designed by Sydney Mercer, and separated the raffle tickets, making quick work of the line that kept re-forming.
Registrants then began to get ready for the walk over to GRIP, or the 5K run. Jacey De La Torre — sister of the event director — led the group in some warm up steps and stretches, and after another quick set from the Richmond High School Marching Band, Glover counted down as the crowd joined in, 10… 9… 8… 7… “Runners take your marks, set and GO!”
With the firing of a starter pistol, the 5K group began the run out Nicholl Park and left down Broadway, to GRIP, then down the cloverleaf and up and over to the Richmond Green Way, with a right on 9th and another right, back to MacDonald to finish.
The race course, designed by Jilly De La Torre and board of directors member Brandon Mercer was designed to take the group to GRIP, past encampments where clients who rely on GRIP for services reside, and then through a beautiful yet less known part of Richmond — the Richmond Greenway. The space will eventually connect the San Francisco Bay Trail on the west with the Ohlone Greenway in the City of El Cerrito on the east. It features an off-road bike park, native plantings, art work, murals, ball fields, and much more, and the work is just beginning to transform this corridor. The 5K course, marked with large orange arrows in chalk paint, also traveled part of the on-going Yellow Brick Road Project, and even traveled a third pedestrian project, the Richmond Wellness Trail, which connects downtown to the historic Richmond waterfront.
The 5K looped back to finish at the same line as the start. Jacey, who had led the stretches before the start just continued to lead the 5K runners, finishing in first place with a time of around 28 minutes, including waiting for a few crosswalk signals on MacDonald. Her sister promised to print her a first place certificate, since GRIP opted not to do medals this year to save more of the event costs to go to feeding the hungry.
Shawn Dunning continued his mayoral campaign of running through Richmond by joining the Harmony Walk, finishing just behind the first group along with Rettew and other friends of GRIP in tight formation behind him.
Runners had the option to join as a team, which gave them recognition on the public address system and within this article, plus extra raffle tickets (we’ll get to those amazing prizes in a minute). This year’s teams included Hope Lutheran Church, UUCB which also included Harmony Walk organizer Ladie Malek, Easter Hill, Autodesk, Inc., Open Door United Methodist Church, Soheila Bana for Council 2022, The Practice Space, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, and Christ Lutheran Church.
The walkers, meanwhile, were enjoying a 12-station tour of GRIP, showing the garden, playground, shelter renovation, office, kitchen, and of course the mural. Scroll down below to read the details about the tour.
The music then began with more numbers from the award-winning Richmond High School Marching Band. Director Andrew Wilke took the stage to talk about the group’s fundraising for a band march at Disneyland.
Wilke teaches seven classes, organizes hundreds of instruments, organizes events like today’s Harmony Walk, and more. Just coordinating all the permissions slips alone for the field trips could be a full time job. Plus, he’s raising the money to fund it all. Wilke won the emerging educator award from the California Music Education Association, after launching the program six years ago with eight students. Today, there are over 70 in the marching band alone, and Richmond could hear them up and down MacDonald as they kicked off, and later closed out the Harmony Walk.
Another musical performance was from Hope Lutheran Church musician Carolyne Christine Melson, who sang an original song, Whispers In The Wind (You Need To Listen). The inspiring and centering song reminded participants of the challenge to find serenity amid the chaos of our lives, and the unfathomable chaos of those who are hungry and without homes.
The talent of GRIP supporters seemed endless as Christ Lutheran Church’s Elsa-Jennie Bliss took to the stage demonstrating incredible juggling skills as an REM song played in the background. CLC actually has two juggling members. Elsie began juggling as a child, and was able to bounce balls on the ground and back up, catching them midflight, launching some high and some low, and seeming to defy gravity with her ability to track and re-toss the yellow and red balls in the air.
The event finally wrapped up with a thank you for GRIP’s 50 plus years of work from outgoing Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, a Muslim prayer from one of the faith communities, and a final set by Richmond High School’s Marching Band.
The Richmond Fall Festival then began immediately afterward.
Those who stopped by the booths met some incredible organizations doing good work in Richmond, and got some fantastic schwag and other handouts like tote bags, food samples, water bottles, pens, cellphone holders, tote bags, sponges, towels, and more. Booths included:
Dream Financial Academy
Center for Elders independence (CEI)
East Bay MUD
Sims Metal Management
El Cerrito Trail Trekkers
Chestnut Street Granola, who also provided samples and a tasty raffle prize basket
We also want to thank our amazing sign printer, Leftside Printing, who worked late, helped our design and created a beautiful permanent Harmony Walk sign for us to use each year.
THANK YOU TO OUR AMAZING RAFFLE PRIZE DONORS:
The Pedaler Bike Shop in El Sobrante donated a brand new Thruster street style bike
Dissident Spirits $50 gift certificate and tasting
Good Hot Swedish Sauna for two at Point Molate
Baltic Kiss Restaurant $50
Black Star Pirate BBQ $50
Catahoula Coffee gift bag
San Francisco Chronicle donated 5 gift bags with a tote, insulated cooler bag, notebook, pen, and hat.
One month membership for a family plus a t-shirt from the Lakeridge Athletic Club
The Renaissance Fair
Square Deal Garage Oil Change and inspection
Two passes to Disneyland courtesy of a board member
Sprouts Farmers Market in Berkeley & Pinole
- Chevron is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies. We believe affordable, reliable, and ever-cleaner energy is essential to achieving a more prosperous and sustainable world.
- $4.2 million spend in 2020-2021 to support organizations improving the quality of life in Richmond and west county.
- 17,216 volunteer hours from staff 2019-2021
- $35 million being invested over 10 years to make college attainable for local students
Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente headquartered in Oakland, California has nearly 13 million members, 39 hospitals and 734 medical offices. Kaiser has nearly 24-thousand doctors and 65-thousand nurses… with 220-thousand total employees.
Sims Metal is one of the world’s leading metal and electronics recyclers with more than 200 facilities, operations in 18 countries, and 4,000 employees globally. As a responsible corporate citizen, we continuously seek new ways to broaden our participation in the environmental sector.
Mechanics Bank is committed at its core to its communities, supporting everything from Boys and Girls Clubs, Junior Achievement and offering “Investing in Today’s Youth” financial literacy training in the curriculum of six public high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Mechanics Bank supports economic development for low-income, minority, and women-owned businesses. Employees donated 875 volunteer hours in 2019 alone…. much of it on the clock.
East Bay MUD:
The East Bay Municipal Utility District has a proud history of providing high-quality drinking water for 1.4 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. EBMUD’s wastewater system serves 740,000 customers and helps protect the ecosystem of San Francisco Bay. EBMUD is a not-for-profit public agency established in 1923.
ABC7 is an owned-and-operated television station, website, and news organization owned by Disney. This year, ABC7 proudly supported the Harmony Walk both through the promotions and event staff and with editorial coverage of GRIP’s work, interviewing executive director Ralph Payton on their mid-day news. Julian Glover hosted the Harmony Walk, introducing our VIP guests, the Richmond High School Marching Band and our GRIP leadership.
Audacy is America’s #1 creator of original premium content, with 200 million listeners each month and 2 billion annual podcast downloads. In the Bay Area, Audacy runs six stations and has as sports partnership with the Golden State Warriors. Stations include everything from KCBS All News 106.9 FM and Alice 97 point 3, to 95 point 7 The Game and 102 Jams.
The San Francisco Chronicle:
The San Francisco Chronicle is the largest newspaper in Northern California, the second largest on the West Coast, and each month reaches over 6 million users across the country. Acquired by Hearst in 2000, the San Francisco Chronicle was founded in 1865 by Charles and Michael de Young and has been awarded six Pulitzer Prizes for journalistic excellence.
SFGATE is the most-read news source in Northern California, and runs independently of the Chronicle, with the same parent company, Hearst.
At Hearst, we believe in conducting good business, looking after our people and taking care of the communities we serve.
Hearst not only gives away over 50 million dollars through the Hearst Foundation, it ADDITIONALLY matches all employee donations to any 501-c-3 of their choice up to 10,000 per employee. And, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Season of Sharing foundation has given away $163 million dollars in the past 3 decades to those in need.
- Caring for 15,000 homeless and hungry people across western Contra Costa County
- 1,050 volunteers
- Staff of 18
- Sheltering 65 people, plus veterans’ housing
- 41 member congregations
- Founded in 1966 as a soup kitchen. We opened the 65-bed shelter in 1993.
- We process some 5,000 pieces of mail a year, provide 2400 showers in addition to those of our residents, and are approaching 72,000 outreach events like providing lunch or other services a year.
Mission statement: “GRIP provides a safe & nourishing place that helps transform those who are unsheltered and in need move toward self-sufficiency.”
TOUR OF GRIP: If you missed the in-person tour because you were running the 5K, here are the highlights.
GARDEN: Welcome to our garden! This outdoor space is meant to bring some nature into this urban corner, plus some cheer with flowers, trees, and a walkable path for reflection.
•The Lowes 100 Hometowns Home Team partnership with the NFL and former GRIP resident Najee Harris–now the star running back for the Pittsburg Steelers–painted our outside fence, installed landscaping and pathways, and plantings around the property.
•Our Richmond Love Your Block Program brought even MORE volunteers to maintain and beautify the space more.
NEXT: Continue the self-guided tour at Station #3 across the parking lot at the PLAYGROUND. Look for the ocean mural!
•GRIP is proud to have a safe place for our shelter children to play, and this past year it got a major upgrade!
•The playful and fun seascape mural was painted by GRIP employees, Lowe’s volunteers, and community leaders
•The landing mats are padded so our little ones are safe from injuries.
•The equipment is age appropriate for our littlest residents who wouldn’t yet ride bikes on the sidewalks and need a place to practice their active skills in a controlled environment
•The sunshades keep kids cool on hotter days while the walls provide safety and privacy, especially for when we have children who are the victims of domestic violence
NEXT: Continue the self-guided tour at the first door of the main building, on the southwest (Bay) side with Station #4 the SHELTER.
•This is the (temporary) home to up to 65 people, including families, newborns, infants, toddlers, single parents, couples, grandparents, teens, and young adults. We would love to show you all the amazing things going on, but in respect for their privacy, we’ll show you these photos instead.
•A huge thanks to “District Council 16 Northern California Journeyman and Apprentice Finishing Trades Institute” for recently painting our center!
NEXT: Go one door north to the main office doors where our self-guided tour continues INSIDE at Station #5 the OFFICES.
•Sure, offices aren’t very exciting, but WE have some exciting things to say. First, check out the renovation!
•Besides running day to day operations, our offices also now house a MENTAL HEALTH advocate and an IMMIGRATION expert through partnerships.
NEXT: Turn around and you’ll immediately find the DINING ROOM and Station #6
•This is where it all began, with GRIP providing a hot soup lunch on foggy days back in 1966, as the Souper Center. This building was acquired in 1993 when GRIP could finally open a shelter to house people directly. We serve over 7500 meals each month during peak times.
•Ready to volunteer? Sign up right now to serve on Thanksgiving!
NEXT: Walk across the dining room toward the serving window to learn about our KITCHEN at Station #7
•Here’s where your dropped off sandwiches go, along with giant pots of soup every day, and walk-in fridges full of fresh fruit and supplies.
•New oven! We recently won a grant to upgrade our oven to a much more modern set up that can serve more meals faster, and with greater energy efficiency.
NEXT: Walk back out the other door of the dining room to find out about our PANTRY, SHOWERS, MAIL, and LAUNDRY at Station #8
•Being without a home, or just struggling to get by means it can be very hard to get laundry done with no access to washers and dryers. It may be just difficult to budget for laundry even if you do have access when you’re struggling to just put food on the table. Having clean clothes, towels, and sheets is not just about hygiene. It also is important for job interviews and self-esteem.
NEXT: See Station #9 on the back wall to learn about why our SHOWERS are so important.
•Nothing is better than a hot shower, especially when it’s cold out. It’s about health, hygiene, and the cathartic experience most of us enjoy every morning. GRIP provides over 200 free showers to our clients each month, not even counting our shelter residents.
NEXT: Turn to your right to find Station #10 and learn how our ROOM OF REQUIREMENT makes this all possible.
THE ROOM OF REQUIREMENT
•Okay, that’s not the real name, but the reference to Harry Potter may be appropriate, since most everything people require is here. You’ve donated soaps, shampoo, razors, tampons, pads, underwear, clean socks, and toothpaste. This is where those all go, providing much-needed toiletries and products to be handed out to whoever is in need.
•Did you know GRIP can use duffel bags, sleeping bags, blankets and jackets? As it gets cooler, see if you have any luggage or warm items to bring by!
NEXT: Head outside the building, and turn left or north to see our new MURAL at Station #11 and take a selfie #GripCares #HarmonyWalk
• Here the sign asks Harmony Walk participants to take a selfie with the mural.
•Look for hashtags #GripCares and #HarmonyWalk to see the photos!
•The mural, commissioned by Richmond’s Love Your Neighbor Block Grant program in 2021, features a colorful view of hope. The artists from the Bay Area Mural Program included the story of Najee Harris who lived here as a kid before going on to being a #1 college football player and 1st round draft pick in the NFL, where he continues to use his fame to tell the story of GRIP and to give back to this community, just as you are doing today at the Harmony Walk.
NEXT: Head back to Nicholl Park to hear live music, our guest speakers and dignitaries, and to win VALUABLE raffle prizes including a trip to Disneyland!!!!!