Mayor Gray Bags Groceries in Breast Cancer Awareness Fundraiser

Tracey Gold Bennett | 10/31/2011, 1:58 p.m.

The District of Columbia has one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, and when it comes to the death toll from the devastating disease, African-American women are disproportionately affected.

With October designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mayor Vincent Gray recently pitched in to help raise funds to combat the illness by serving as a grocery bagger at the Safeway located at the Waterfront on Southwest.

"This is such an important health issue," Gray said. "We are making progress and learning more about the disease...but I don't think it can be overstated that we need to be aware of breast cancer."

Gray was among a slate of elected officials from the greater Washington metropolitan area who volunteered throughout the month to assist Safeway's company-wide effort.

Safeway, which boasts 1,700 stores in the United States and Canada, has participated in the fundraiser since 2001, raising more than $94 million for the cause. Money raised will support local and national organizations that provide screening for breast cancer, breast-health-awareness education and research to cure the disease.

"It's a great opportunity for folks to roll up their sleeves and have a good time for a great cause. We've done this for 10 years," said Greg Ten Eyck, director of public affairs for Safeway's Eastern Division.

Jean Green, of Southwest Washington, was shopping in the deli when Gray entered the store. Green, a breast cancer survivor, was surprised by the celebrity guest bagger and said she appreciates that the mayor volunteered his time.

"I think it's a great idea and it shows he cares," Green said.

Renee Bentley, from Jacksonville, Fla., just happened to be in the store while taking a break from a business conference. She was also delighted by the mayor's benevolence.

"I think it's awesome. We have to have more breast cancer awareness," Bentley said. "We just had a very big run down in Jacksonville, benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation. We have to take care of our breast health."