PHOENIX, Ariz/SPRINGFIELD, Ohio/STORRS, Conn. – CROP Hunger Walks have been called the “granddaddy of charity walks.” At age 97, Lester Dray well may be the granddaddy of walkers.
When the Litchfield Park, Ariz. retiree participated in his area’s Feb. 24 West Valley CROP Hunger Walk – his 21st walk since the 1980s – Dray says it signaled his own baton-passing event, at least, in terms of walking.
As if in tribute, half way across the country Clint Rodgers is one millennial who has accepted the hunger battle baton. Rodgers is a student organizer for Wittenberg University’s autumn CROP Hunger Walk in Springfield, Ohio—where students have been Walking to raise funds and hunger awareness since 1988.
The Wittenberg University and suburban Arizona walks are just two of the CROP Hunger Walks held every year by some 2,000 communities nationwide.
Presented by humanitarian agency Church World Service, CROP Hunger Walks are the only charity events in the U.S. that benefit vulnerable people around the corner and around the world. A quarter of funds raised from each walk stays in those communities to support local hunger fighting efforts.
Why people become longtime CROP Hunger Walkers is an easy question for Dray. “Despite the fact that I’m in my 90s, I’m still a great believer that I don’t just let the world go by without taking some responsibility for making it better for people, obviously based on my religious beliefs.”
Wittenberg’s Rodgers – at 20 and several decades younger than Dray – has the same mission.
When people ask Rodgers why they should participate in a CROP Hunger Walk, he tells them “how much people need from us around the world, and how little you really need to give to provide that help. CROP Hunger Walks aren’t just about handing food to people but about teaching them how to raise it, or providing fresh water nearer to a village so they have better access.”
UConn campus groups hop on CROP in ‘cross-gen’ community initiative
In Storrs, Conn., University of Connecticut senior Rebecca Hasko, CWS CROP Hunger Walk Campus Intern, is spearheading student engagement in the April 28 UConn Walk. Hasko says now that their CROP Hunger Walk Club is an officially registered campus organization, other student groups are coming on board.
The UConn walk is a cross-generational initiative that’s also reaching beyond campus. In the wider community an interfaith committee, representing some 40 congregations, is enrolling participants in Storrs, Mansfield and Willimantic to join UConn students for the April fundraiser.
CWS New England Assistant Director Krista Connelly is advisor to both UConn student and community CROP Hunger Walk committees. “College students want someone to believe in them, they want to help, want to be important,” Connelly says.
Wittenberg College senior Rodgers credits the Walks with helping him live his faith. “I really appreciate Church World Service. I'm a practicing Lutheran. It's really through things like the CROP Walk that I get to see a lot of my faith in action.”
Meanwhile in suburban Phoenix, although Lester Dray may not walk in next year’s trek, his faith is still in action. As part of his CROP Hunger Walk fundraising, to multiply donations he is now “exploring gift matching” through a company where he is a pensioner.
There are now an estimated 870 million hungry, chronically undernourished people globally. CWS and its ecumenical, interfaith, multi-cultural CROP Hunger Walks have been working for more than 40 years to end that chronic crisis.
CWS is encouraging people throughout the nation to participate in CROP Hunger Walks this spring or in the fall, to support CROP Hunger walkers in their communities, or to donate online at churchworldservice.org/donate. Congregations, businesses, neighborhood groups or friends wishing to find in a local walk or to organize a CROP Hunger Walk can get information and resources online or by calling the CWS/CROP Regional Office toll free at 1-888-297-2767 for assistance.