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WESTLAKE, Ohio — On Saturday, hundreds of participants and volunteers will flood the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo for the 35th Annual Walk for Hunger & 5K Run. It’s a team effort to make this all happen. It’s the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Hunger Network. But the driving force behind this mission is Mary Levtzow. Though for most who know her, she goes by Mary Cares Much.

A regular contributor to food pantries, Mary uses a portion of her garage to store food donations. People in her Westlake community know they can bring their donations to Mary, who’s been running the operation out of her garage since 2000, making sure all that food gets into the right hands. The 77-year-old former teacher and breast cancer survivor is also legally blind and hearing impaired. She doesn’t go anywhere without her partner in crime – her guide dog Chico.

“Chico and I come out here and we arrange the food in the right order for the right centers and get everything organized,” she told News 5 Anchor Courtney Gousman. “We have pick-ups all month and every week.”

Mary works closely with her church to bring in donations. Part of her stash goes to the Hunger Network, where she’s been named as the Presenting Sponsor of the annual Walk for Hunger for eight years. The Hunger Network’s Melanie O’Donnell told News 5 the event has a lot of sponsors, but none quite as big as Mary.

“She is our top sponsor,” O’Donnell said. “I know she takes a lot of pride in that. We are so grateful to have her on our side.” In addition to all the donations she collects from her community, Mary also manages to raise $15,000 for the event.

The Hunger Network has been around since 1995 and provides food to 79 pantries across Cuyahoga County. They also operate a pantry in Cleveland’s Midtown neighborhood, where those in need can come in and “shop” for what they need. The Network also salvages food from grocery stores and restaurants to hand out in other counties including Lorain, Lake, and Geauga. Mary said this work she’s been doing for the past 27 years is everything to her.

“Because Jesus died for us. That’s the whole key. Jesus is the key,” she said. “There’s so much need, you’ll never know. There’s just so much. That’s all we see all the time is people in need, therefore you have to meet the need.”

“Some people say I wish I could help, or I’ll donate a little bit here,” said O’Donnell. “But Mary dedicates her life to it. I really think it’s her life mission.”

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio’s deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.