BREWER — Brenda Davis spends each November on a pilgrimage to raise money and awareness about hunger in Maine, and this year she ended her monthlong Ending Hunger walk on Thursday when she entered the Brewer Federal Credit Union.
Davis, executive director of Crossroads Ministries in Old Town, began her annual walks nine years ago in partnership with the Maine Credit Union League, and on her trek this year she witnessed firsthand the need of those less fortunate.
“I’ve seen an increase in numbers. I’ve seen empty shelves,” she said by cell phone Thursday morning while walking near the Bangor Mall toward Brewer.
Along the way, Davis visited food pantries in 72 communities and issued each a $105 donation from the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger, which helps put food in the hands of those in need.
While she was walking through Lewiston, local Head Start students joined her, and when they got to the pantry, one of the students’ family members was there getting a basket of food.
“She said to me: ‘That’s my granddaughter. I bought her those boots because she really needed them,’” Davis said.
The grandmother chose to purchase clothing for her granddaughter over buying herself food, Davis said, adding that the woman’s story inspired her and emphasized what she calls Maine’s “hidden disease.”
Davis said she knows that people without resources have to make tough choices and often have to choose between buying food and heating their homes, or between food and purchasing medicine.
This year’s Ending Hunger walk began at the Maine State Credit Union in Augusta, the top fundraising credit union for the last four years, and traveled through every county in the state.
After stopping by the local food pantries, Davis went to the local credit unions, which totaled 79 this year, and picked up a campaign contribution to support the cause, which for 2010 totaled nearly $30,000, according to a press release from the league.
When she walked into the Brewer Federal Credit Union on Thursday, Jon Paradise of the Maine Credit Union League presented her with an enlarged $1,572 check from the league.
The check amount symbolizes the record number of miles the Ending Hunger tour encompassed this year and the towns and cities she visited.
“She’s covered, between foot and car, about 1,500 miles and the 72 is for the 72 communities she’s visited this year,” Paradise said.
He described Davis as a warrior and commended her annual commitment to raise awareness of hunger in Maine.
“She’s so committed to the cause, as are the Maine credit unions,” Paradise said. “Everybody seems to get energized every year about the cause. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who don’t have enough to eat.”
The walking tour is held each November, which is Ending Hunger Month. Davis said Crossroads Ministries, which typically serves more than 600 clients in the Old Town area, and others across the state are all seeing more clients.
“Not just an increase in numbers, but it’s an increase in what they need,” she said. “We used to think of emergency food pantries as for people who weren’t doing things right. The majority of the people [who need help] are doing everything right, but there just isn’t enough jobs or enough money.”
The Campaign for Ending Hunger has raised more than $3.5 million to help end hunger in Maine since it was established in 1990 by the league of credit unions.
Those interested in more information can visit the Maine Credit Union League’s website at mainecul.org.