My first meeting with volunteers after starting with CWS eleven years ago was a post-Walk celebration for the Southwick/Granville CROP Hunger Walk at the Roma Restaurant in Southwick. I was a bit nervous, but so warmly welcomed by co-coordinators Clayton Cigal, Sr. and Carolyn Mills – who was stepping down after many years and to whom we were presenting a certificate – that I was immediately relieved. I can do this, I thought.
Southwick/Granville is the longest running CROP Hunger Walk in New England, walking for the 41st time this past Sunday. Clayton Cigal, Sr. credits Carolyn Mills for having kept it going through some lean years. She said to me that it was her high school-aged daughter that kept her going.
Since that first year, I have never missed a year of meeting and walking (maybe one) with the Cigals in Southwick. Clayton’s son, Clayton, Jr., stepped up as co-coordinator following Carolyn, who still walks every year. His daughter, Marie Daniels, now serves as treasurer, in charge of publicity and many other logistics. All in all, a couple of dozen Cigals spanning four generations are involved in the Walk, from hosting water and cookies stops, making the soup for the recruiter’s soup and bread supper, to providing music for the walk (grandson-in-law and musician Sam Chevalier does that, as well as singing Amazing Grace before the walkers step off).
Clayton Sr. says as long as one child goes to bed hungry, he’ll keep going. He is the first one to say that helping feed the hungry is part of his recovery. Recently he celebrated twenty-three years.
Clayton Jr. says that working on the Walk as a family is teaching the younger generation to care about people in need here at home and around the world.
When you walk with a family for eleven years, you get to celebrate with them, and to mourn. Over the last four years, both Clayton Sr. and Clayton Jr. have lost a son, too soon. Both times, it was just a few short weeks and months before the Walk, which is always the first Sunday in June. Both times, they did not hesitate to go forward with the Walk.
When my tenure with CWS is complete, I know that it is the volunteers with whom I have been privileged to work that I will remember most. It is due to their commitment and sacrifice that the work of CWS will continue. To borrow Clayton Sr.’s famous parting line, “I love you all, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Amy Porter is Associate Director for the CWS New England region.