When members of 23 organizations step off at 2 p.m. from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Oct. 18 for the 25th annual CROP Hunger Walk, they will be walking in spirit with more than 1,000 other CROP Walks nationwide and in solidarity with the millions of people who daily walk long distances for water, food, shelter or safety. The participants in this walk are members of Evanston’s faith communities and other community organizations and schools, and groups of families, friends and work colleagues.
Through pledges and outright donations, the walkers raise money, some of which is donated to Church World Service, which sponsors the walks, for its global efforts to fight hunger and promote peace. The remainder goes to local organizations that address hunger in the community.
At a planning meeting in early September, Sue Murphy, director of Interfaith Action of Evanston, spoke of Interfaith’s efforts over 30 years of doing work with the homeless, including sponsoring three soup kitchens. The group’s newest venture is bringing the Food Depository of Greater Chicago’s Producemobile regularly to Robert Crown Center. She said 250 to 300 families in Evanston are struggling to put food on their tables.
Lori Dube, who hosted the planning session at Curt’s Cafe South, described the training program that Curt’s offers to young mothers at Curt’s South and, at Curt’s North, to young men 17-22 years old who have had encounters with the criminal justice system.
“We provide job skills, including interactions with customers,” Ms. Dube said – “and also hope and love.”
The 5K walk from St. Paul’s church, 1004 Greenwood St., to the lakefront and back, will help support Interfaith Action of Evanston, the soup kitchens at Second Baptist Church, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Hemenway United Methodist Church (Soup at Six) and Curt’s Café South. Last year 277 walkers in Evanston raised $52,000. The goal this year is $55,000, said Kathy Kastilahn of St. Paul’s Church. Annually some 116,000 walkers raise $12 million – 75% goes to international relief and development and 25% stays in the communities to fund local efforts.
This year, First Bank & Trust of Evanston “made a very generous donation to
our operating account,” which helped make this year’s walk possible, said Jarrod Gaither of Grace Lutheran Church. He is participating in the walk for the third year, this time as co-chair of the planning committee.
The original CROP walk began in 1947 as the “Christian Rural Overseas Program,” said Ms. Kastilahn. The mission then was to help Midwest farm families share grain with the hungry in post-war Europe. Rail cars loaded grain beginning in North Dakota for shipment abroad, she said.
While the acronym may have faded over the years, the mission to get food to the hungry has intensified. Hunger and poverty are close to home as well as in distant places.
The website feedingamerica.org reports that in 2014, 46.7 million people, nearly 15% of the U.S. population, were in poverty; 15.5 million children under the age of 18 were in poverty, and 4.6 million seniors 65 and older were in poverty. Even more, 48.1 million lived in “food-insecure” households: In Evanston, 44% of School District 65 students and about 40% of Evanston Township High School students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, according to figures from school year 2015-15.
Ms. Kastilahn said, “I do think it’s interesting/important that a national ecumenical organization can offer structure for local communities to plug into that raises both money and awareness in the individual places – and brings advocates within a community to work on this effort, with the result that they get to know each other and are able to continue working together on issues and programs throughout the year.”
Registration is open for those who wish to walk, start a team, volunteer or donate: http://hunger.cwglobal.org/site/TR/2015CROPHungerWalks.
“While we encourage everyone to recruit sponsors and collect donations, everyone is welcome to walk with us on Oct. 18,” said Mr. Gaither. “We need volunteers to help on the day of the walk! Crossing guards, registration assistants, ushers – there are lots of jobs that can be done.