By Anthony Hinkelman
The annual autumn CROP Walk offers participants of all faiths the opportunity to aid those impacted by earthquakes, floods, poverty, starvation, or other disasters. CROP Walk allows sponsors and walkers to give to people worlds away, while experiencing the struggle those same people live with on a daily basis.
“The reason we did [CROP] as a fundraiser was to model what three-fourths of humanity must do every day simply to suvive — and that’s walk,” said Doug Anderson, Regional Director of Upstate NY for the Church World Service/CROP.
In developing countries, many must walk whether it be to the market for goods, to a far off well for clean water, or even to a hospital for medical care.
“We must think about the way three qaurters of the world lives,” said Anderson. “We need to see ourselves in an interconnected planet; we’re all connected.”
CROP (Christian Rural Overseas Program) is the part of Church World Service (CWS), an ecumenical organization, which aids victims around the world. CWS was formed in 1946 as a response to post WWII Europe. The initial CROP program, then known as Rural Overseas Relief, was created a year later. The program offered war-torn Europe surplus grains from farms in the Midwest. Since then, CROP has brought relief and aid to victims of disasters, starvation, and violence all over the world.
CROP was brought to the CNY region when Anderson came in September of 1976.
“The first three walks in the city were downtown and the suburb north and east which started in September of ‘77. I don’t think we’ve missed a year since,” he said.
St. Vincent de Paul Church in Syracuse, along with many other participating churches, has been in it from the beginning.
According to Sister Gloria DeCotis, CSJ, of St. Vincent’s, the parish has brought in the most donations in their area.
“We have wonderful young families,” she said, “not a lot of them, but the quality we have is 150 percent.”
St. Vincent’s has a small congregation, gathering 40-50 walkers, compared to other churches who might have hundreds, she said, but the church’s elderly who can’t walk are always willing to donate and sponsor the event.
St. Vincent’s has earned the Golden Shoe Award for over 20 years, a first place insignia for the parish with the most donations in the area.
“It’s a wonderful competition, Cathedral [of the Immaculate Conception] had it one year.”
Sister Maureen D’Onofrio, CSJ, her friend from Cathedral, is after it again, Sister Gloria joked.
As an ecumenical event, CROP Walk gathers people of goodwill of all faiths. In Weedsport, Rev. Valerie White of First United Methodist held the event early with another Methodist church, a Presbyterian church, a Baptist church, and non-practicing individuals from the community to raise $1,650 with 40 walkers.
“This is 15 more walkers than last year and 300 more dollars,” she said. “We were blessed.”
CROP Walk is also supported by schools. According to Beth Scanlon, Social Justice Coordinator for Campus Ministry at Le Moyne College, the students have participated in the downtown walk every year.
“We’re hoping this year for more. We have a new student organization that’s helping to mobilize people,” she said.
“[The funds] go where ever they are needed. The goal is to give people the tools to feed themselves,” explained Amy Bobbette-Manning, Assistant Regional Director of Upstate NY for CWS/CROP.
CROP funds could aid CWS relief programs such as those in Haiti, where people continue to suffer after a devasting earthquake in January. CWS also has relief programs in Pakistan, where victims are still recovering from the July floods. They’re even involved at home, aiding the U.S. where severe flooding was experienced along the Mississippi River last spring.
A quarter of the donations collected in a region are shared among the local relief programs. In Weedsport, for instance, Rev. White’s CROP Walk was able to donate over $300 to their food pantry, Brutus-Sennett, which will be used to buy additional food and supplies.
“It’s an appropriate distribution because the need is so much greater pretty much everywhere else,” she said. “The poorest person in this country is seven times richer than the richest people in some countries.”
For Syracuse’s food pantries, Michele Jordan, Executive Director of the Food Consortium, balances out 25% of the city’s CROP donations between the food pantries in the greater Syracuse area.
“I try to do it in a fair and equitable way. Each pantry is different. We look at what’s going on and what their needs are,” Jordan said.
To participate in a CROP walk visit www.churchworldservice.org or call (315) 458-8535.