-- — When the Christian Rural Overseas Program began in 1947 under the wing of Church World Service, its primary mission was to help Midwest farm families share their grain with hungry neighbors in post-World War II Europe and Asia.
Today, the acronym has been outgrown, but is retained for history’s sake in the Ripley County CROP Walk, now in its 25th year.
While the interfaith event has taken place in rural parts of the county recently, “we’re going to walk through Batesville this year,” including the new trail, reports the host pastor, the Rev. David Johnston of St. John’s United Church of Christ, Huntersville.
Participants have the option of strolling the entire six-mile route or “a golden kilometer, about half a mile,” he says.
The Rev. Larry Dimick of Batesville United Methodist Church, walk chairman, notes, “On one Sunday afternoon in October, Christian churches put aside their differences and live out our shared ministry by combating world hunger – one step at a time. What a great example for our communities, our churches and our children.”
Since the county event sponsored by CWS began in 1987, over $300,000 has been collected.
Johnston recalls, “For several years, we were the largest rural CROP walk in the state and we’re hoping to get back up to that figure.”
Last year 180 walkers belonging to 22 churches raised $8,409. This fall, “I’d like to see 500.”
Contributions are used to feed the hungry globally, including for disaster relief in the United States, such as victims without food after the Holton tornado.
Seventy-five percent of the collected dollars are allocated to various hunger agencies, including CWS, Lutheran World Relief and Catholic World Relief.
The remaining 25 percent is split between food pantries in Batesville, Sunman, Osgood and Milan.
Johnston believes, “The most important thing we need to do is focus on infant nutrition. If we don’t, in a lot of these Third World countries, infants’ abilities and mental faculties don’t develop and then they become even more of a dependent group.”
He remembers a college friend from Lebanon who had very gnarled fingers, which slowed his typing speed. “It was from childhood malnutrition.”
Locally, due to the recession, “many people have never before been in this position” of needing food. Thanks to area pantries, “we have families that have been tremendously helped.”
To keep the fundraiser fresh, “we’re hoping to have education stations along the walk that talk about what one person can do” to help those who are starving. Also, live music in the church parking lot will set a festive mood before and after, when refreshments will be offered.
Although the walk takes place in Ripley County, participants do not have to live here. They also do not have to be affiliated with a church. “We would love to have clubs and businesses,” according to the host pastor, who adds that Friendship State Bank already has signed up.
RIPLEY COUNTY CROP WALK
When: Sunday, Oct. 7, at 1:30 p.m.
Where: Participants should check in between 12:45-1:30 p.m. at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Huntersville.
Who: Churches, organizations, businesses and individuals are invited to participate by contacting recruitment chairperson the Rev. Juanita “Tommy” Wallpe at 934-3497.
Debbie Blank can be contacted at 812-934-4343, Ext. 113; or debbie.blank@ batesvilleheraldtribune.com.