Over 200 people marched in N Street Village Strong: A Community Walk, on Saturday Oct. 19. Participants were encouraged to walk next to residents from all six of N Street Village’s transitional housing programs. While they walked, participants were encouraged to focus on the meaning of the word “strength.”
A woman named Mary Virginia who said she was both a client and volunteer at N Street summed up the word this way: “Strength means helping others achieve their highest potential.”
N Street Village is a community for homeless and low-income women in Washington, D.C. Staff and volunteers work to provide comprehensive help and support, from emergency housing to career development.
For many years, organizations such as N Street Village participated in Fannie Mae’s national Help the Homeless Walkathon. But Fannie Mae was placed in government receivership as the result of the nation’s real estate crisis and the last national walk was held in 2011. The mortgage giant has continued to sponsor independently organized mini-walks since then.
“Participating organizations still use their [Fannie Mae] platform and still have access to the incentives that Fannie Mae offers. Then the organizations take the responsibility of putting on their own walk, like we did,” said Kate Akalonu, Communications and Engagement Manager at N Street Village.
Fannie Mae promised to give N Street Village incentives for every walker that registered for the walk. N Street Village had the potential to receive a maximum of $20,000 dollars if the walk recruited 2,000 in-person or “virtual” walkers. Virtual walkers can donate to the organization and count towards their Fannie Mae incentives without necessarily attending the walk itself.
“It’s about coming together, showing strength in numbers and showing that together we can have a major impact,” Akalonu said.
With dedicated supporters who have become accustomed to the tradition of walking together this one day a year, N Street Village decided to stick with a walk and held it right in their own community, with breakfast, and an introduction from their director.
“Strength is community, and it’s great that N Street and the rest of the local community got together to celebrate the accomplishments of these women,” Carmen, a participant at the walkathon said.
Since the Walkathon is no longer being held on the National Mall, the usual van trips of 15 passengers at a time were no longer needed to ferry residents to and from the event. Participants walked past Miriam’s House as well as Erna’s House, which are both residential housing programs offered through N Street Village.
“This year we have three team captains who are clients. Each walker will be on a team and [the captains] will share a few words to motivate their team, and then follow it up with some exercises before they begin,” Akalonu said.
Since the walk moved to the neighborhood, local businesses have stepped up their support, organizers said. Whole Foods supermarket donated “Love” tote bags to walkers and area shops and restaurants offered discounts to customers who mentioned the walk.
“It’s really a great time for a lot of us to come together in solidarity with people experiencing homelessness,” Akalonu said.