By Claudia Mathis
“If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then light shall rise for you in the darkness and your gloom shall become for you like midday.”
— Isaiah 58:10
Douglas Anderson, Regional Director of Church World Service, is passionate about fighting hunger. As a member of the peace and justice committee at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Syracuse, Anderson said that he, as well as many other Catholics, wants to live out the social teachings of the church. They want to be advocates for the poor, not only by filling food pantries, but also by trying to change public policies that create hunger.
Approximately 2,500 Central New Yorkers will raise funds to alleviate hunger throughout the month of October when they participate in 23 CROP Hunger Walks throughout Onondaga, Madison, Cayuga and Oswego Counties. Over the last 35 years, walkers have raised $4,180,103 in Central New York.
Church World Service, an international relief organization, sponsors the CROP Walks, which are interfaith events that fight hunger locally and around the world.
“We’re interested in getting the maximum number of walkers to each location to demonstrate to our civic officials and elected leaders how many people care about this huge issue,” said Anderson.
Before walking the three-mile route, participants obtain donations from sponsors. Anderson said that it is not necessary for one to walk the entire three-mile distance if health limitations prevent one from doing so. He also mentioned that donors have the opportunity to designate their gifts to other approved international hunger-fighting agencies. Donors can also designate their gifts to Catholic Relief Services.
Anderson is hoping to raise at least $150,000 this year along with additional funds coming in from Cortland and Oneida Counties. He explained that 25 percent of the money raised will be given to local food pantries and meal programs in the community and the remaining 75 percent will support global assistance programs worldwide through Church World Service.
Anderson is very concerned about the increasing poverty rate. According to Church World Service, one in seven Americans lives below the federal poverty line of $22,000 per year for a family of four. In Syracuse, 34 percent live below the poverty line. In Central New York, the Interreligious Food Consortium, suburban and rural food pantries serve about 28,000 families each month. Globally, about 30,000 people a day, including about 18,000 children, die from hunger-related causes.
Many parishioners from the Syracuse Diocese will participate in the walks this year, with the majority of them being held on Sunday, Oct. 14.
Marie Bailey, middle school youth coordinator at St. Mary of the Lake Church in Skaneateles, is in charge of a group of 30 young people who will be walking in this year’s CROP Walk on Oct. 21. Bailey, who has coordinated the event for the last four years, said the event provides an opportunity to raise people’s awareness of world hunger. “We live in such a blessed community,” Bailey said. “Any time we can get the kids as well as ourselves to think of ways to help other people and to take time out to help them, it’s a good thing.”
St. Vincent de Paul Church in Syracuse has historically been well represented at the annual CROP Walk, which this year will be held Oct. 14 in downtown Syracuse at Columbus Circle. Sister Gloria DeCotis, CSJ, has been heavily involved with garnering support for the event and is responsible for the strong turnout year after year. As a way to honor Sister Gloria, the parish developed the Sister Gloria CROP Kid Award last year. A plaque with her photo and her name was created, and every year the name of the young person that earns the most money through the CROP Walk is added to the plaque.
Parishioner Bob James is a retired youth minister at St. Vincent de Paul. He thinks the CROP Walks are essential to raising awareness of the hunger issue. “The need and demand for food has increased so much, it’s important,” James said. “It’s what the Gospel tells us to do.”
Anderson said that the reason Church World Service selected the CROP Walk as a fundraiser in 1969 was precisely to model what three quarters of the world’s people must do every day just to survive. “They walk long distances for clean water, walk to medical clinics, walk as refugees to save their lives, and in America, they walk to food pantries because they lack cars,” said Anderson.
To offer support, call (315) 458-8535 or 1-888-297-2767 to obtain a registration form and donation envelope or to volunteer to work on a local committee. Visit www.cropwalkonline.org to find walks throughout the diocese and to make an online donation.