Helping the Hungry with a Church World Service CROP Hunger Walk
By Arlene Kallaur
(CROP – Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty)
What is a Church World Service CROP Hunger Walk?
It is neighbors, walking together, to take a stand against hunger in our world. Together we raise awareness and funds for international relief and development, as well as local hunger fighting.
Many of our parishes have begun wonderful programs in the last several decades to help feed the hungry locally and even teach skills so that more can get jobs and become self sustaining. However, we cannot ourselves reach our brothers and sisters who are in even greater hunger and poverty internationally, so we look to organizations like Church World Service (CWS), International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and their partners to do this for us. Because CROP Hunger Walks are ecumenical, CWS uniquely allows donors to designate their gifts to other approved international hunger-fighting agencies, including IOCC, if they so choose.
Internationally, these partner organizations not only provide food and medicine, but empower programs that bring seeds and tools, wells and water systems, training and micro-enterprise programs to people struggling to feed their families, develop their communities and rise out of poverty.
They cannot succeed without our financial support. One popular way to raise funds is to join or to organize a CROP Hunger Walk. It not only raises funds, it refreshes and renews our bodies, and promotes community fellowship and camaraderie. A winning ticket!
A Bit of History
In 1946 in the aftermath of World War II, farmers in the Midwest wanted to share their harvest, especially grains, with those starving in Europe. Thus began the Christian Rural Overseas Program (CROP). Though many years have passed since then, hunger continues in many parts of the world, and even in the US to this day. We believe it can be eradicated. Christ, Himself, was concerned with feeding the hungry. The first CROP Hunger Walk took place in the 1960’s. Each year since then the number of Walks has grown. Today, well over 2,000 communities join in more than 1,600 CROP Hunger Walks.
Our parish, Holy Trinity, East Meadow, New York, is among that number. It has spearheaded a CROP Hunger Walk for three years now, and is beginning to plan another for October of this year (2013). We have grown modestly, from a group of about 25 walkers to some 70 to 80 walkers in each of the last two years, and have raised between $5,000 and $8,000 in each year. Twenty five percent of the money raised remains locally and is given to an outreach program of the Committee’s choosing.
We have striven to be ecumenical in composition and have had the presence of Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Episcopal walkers. In the past two years, we have especially attracted walkers from other Orthodox churches in the area – besides Holy Trinity (OCA) we have had participation from two Greek Orthodox parishes, one Carpatho-Russian parish and one Malankara Indian Orthodox parish that brought thirty young people from its Youth Movement.
How to Organize A CROP Hunger Walk
Get the blessing of your parish priest. Choose a Coordinator, ideally, one who has a strong conviction of Christ’s command to “feed the hungry” and the enthusiasm to rouse others to join in the effort. That person may already know about the work of Church World Service, or can read about it on its website at www.cwsglobal.org, and /or speak with a CWS regional representative. (To identify the Regional Office in your area, call Toll Free 888-297-2767.)
Once a Coordinator has been designated, that person gathers a Committee of 4 to 8 persons committed to the Walk that could be from the parish,
from other Orthodox parishes in the area,
from parishes of other denominations /faiths.
It is a great opportunity to visit and become acquainted with other parishes and church leaders.
A first meeting – The Coordinator should call a meeting of the Committee 3 to 4 months before the projected day of the Walk. At that meeting, the date, the time, the location of the Walk and the length of the Walk need to be determined. Most Walks are held in the Spring or Fall, on a Saturday or Sunday. (It’s helpful to get the date on everyone’s Calendar early before other events take precedence.) Our Walk offers a one and a two mile walk. Other groups offer three, sometimes five mile walks.
We hold our Walk in a near-by county park. Some groups walk on neighborhood sidewalks, often beginning at one church and finishing at another where refreshments are usually served. If walking in a park, the Coordinator should visit the park office to secure the date and the space. CWS will send a certificate covering insurance for the participants. If the Walk is on public sidewalks and where there will be street crossings, the police need to be notified as well.
Divide the Responsibilities among Committee Members
Essential tasks that need to be accomplished for setting up a successful walk include:
Coordinator - Sets up Walk, contacts participating churches and groups with information about the Walk, asking them to provide a point person (“Captain” or Recruiter) to receive continuous information and to rally walkers, oversees development and completion of tasks, plans Walk program, sees that “thank you’s” are sent, sets up an evaluation meeting after the Walk.
Logistics – Maps out route of Walk and tries it out, sets up markers or persons to keep walkers on the right path, if a long walk, provides water stations along the way.
Treasurer - Explains money process to Recruiters, engages several persons to help with registration at the Walk, receives all monies from Recruiters, sends money to CWS financial office, shares ongoing financial report with Coordinator, and final financial report with all the Committee, and as well with CWS Regional Office.
Internet Information Person – Helps Recruiters understand how to use the internet to get sponsors on-line. Donations for the Walk can be received on-line by credit card. Contacting far away family and friends to be sponsors can greatly boost donations.
Other tasks that can enhance the Walk:
Educational Promotion of Walk
Refreshments and Entertainment
If the Committee is not large enough, some of these tasks may be combined.
After the initial meeting, the Coordinator contacts the CWS Regional Office with information about the Walk. The Regional Office can be a great help in getting started, in providing kits with preparation and promotional materials, especially the short video clips on DVD’s telling so effectively about the lives of the people in poverty or about those recovering from disasters. (Suitable for viewing by parish church schools, adult gatherings and for the meetings themselves) A staff person may also be willing to come out to your next meeting to offer words of encouragement, help explain the process, and answer questions. He/she may even attend the Walk, if their schedule permits. Once the Walk information is set, it will be put up on the CWS website.
We’ve ended each Walk with refreshments. One year we had snacks, donuts, apples and hot chocolate donated by our Parish PTA, another year pizza and cider donated by local merchants, last year hot chicken soup from our parish’s Christian Kitchen and Greek cookies from one of the Captains. Coffee and water are ever popular.
We’ve also been fortunate to have entertainment these last two years, the donated talent of two different Karaoke DJ’s and have had great sing-alongs to conclude the event.
The second meeting, referred to as the “Recruiters’ Orientation,” is held about 6 weeks before the Walk. At this meeting a Recruiter or “Captain” from each parish or participating group is asked to attend. A good way to begin is by showing one or two of the DVD clips mentioned above , followed by a short talk – by a regional staff person, a person who has been helped by CWS, or who has walked previously - to rally enthusiasm for the undertaking at hand.
Distribute materials and share tips for inspiring Walkers and Donors. The Treasurer will go over how each Walker is to fill out an envelope as he/she gathers sponsors, to be turned in on the day of the Walk. Those in the parish or group who cannot walk, can sponsor a Walker, or can donate to a parish/group list that has a designated Walker. Committee people can then briefly describe their role in the Walk. Their phone numbers and emails should be made available to all. Questions and answers should follow. Refreshments and fellowship make a nice finale.
During the six weeks leading up to the Walk, the Coordinator should be in contact with the Committee weekly to know of the accomplishments in their assigned area. Captains can be contacted to know estimates of Walkers.
Committee members should discuss which local outreach program they would like to have receive 25% of the funds collected. (That program needs to have 501.c3 status.) A Grant Request Application is then filled out and submitted. Once decided and approved, the name of the local program can be used in your publicity.
A week before the Walk, a final meeting of the Committee would be helpful and would include a review of plans and logistics, final tasks to be accomplished, a final thought to the importance of the Walk, a prayer for its success.
Welcome Walkers and Celebrities! Short five minute acknowledgments. Publicly thank everyone. Begin the Walk with prayer. Host media and take photos. End with refreshments, entertainment, if so desired.
First Week After the Walk Treasurer’s preliminary tally reported to Coordinator and to Committee. Write-up and photos sent to local publications, to parish and group participants, dioceses, national churches etc.
Four Weeks after the Walk Have an Evaluation Meeting. Receive Treasurer’s final tally. Evaluate different aspects of the Walk. Discuss strategies for improvement. Set the date and identify leaders for next year. Celebrate all your good efforts!
These guidelines are variable according to the size and time available of your committee.
For more information and specifics, Google Simple steps for organizing a Crop Hunger Walk–CWS. A first Walk is always a little more stressful. Even if it starts out small, don’t be discouraged. You believe in the need. Do your best. The Lord sees your efforts and will be there with you!
Contact the OCA Department of Christian Service and Humanitarian Aid to tell us about your CROP Walk experience at oca.org/about/departments/christian-service.