The annual New Paltz CROP Hunger Walk scheduled for Sunday, October 18 at 2 p.m. will be a different event this year, says Renee Jensen. The purpose of the walk is still to raise awareness of hunger and raise funds to feed those in need, but the faith-based tradition will be expanded this year to include the secular community. It will be accompanied by an Earth Day-type event at Hasbrouck Park with live music, information tables and family activities from 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Jensen, a parishioner at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in New Paltz, is co-coordinator of the CROP Hunger Walk along with father Salvatore Cordaro, pastor at the church.
“It’s based on Christian ideals of taking care of one’s neighbor, of course, but all people of good will are about that,” says Cordaro. “We want to try to widen the circle of people who participate in this event to include all people who want to help their neighbor in need.”
St. Joseph Church is a ministry of Capuchin Franciscan Friars. Father Sal, as Cordaro is known, is both an ordained priest and a brother. Franciscans see themselves as brothers, first and foremost, Cordaro says, following the thinking of St. Francis that “we’re all brothers and sisters to one another.”
Getting involved in the CROP Hunger Walk resonates with his beliefs that all of us are called to give of ourselves what we can to a person in need. “No matter who they are,” he says. “Not everyone is blessed with abundance. It’s our duty to share what we have with the people around us. And the problem of poverty and hunger is right in our backyards as well as in countries like Africa.”
Registration for the CROP Hunger Walk may be made in advance at www.CROPHungerWalk.org/newpaltzny. Participants may register as an individual or in teams. The idea is to get as many sponsors as possible, with proceeds raised divided between the international hunger-related projects of the sponsoring Church World Service organization and local efforts to feed the hungry. The beneficiaries of the New Paltz CROP Walk will be the food pantries of St. Joseph and Wallkill Reformed churches.
Registration is also at Hasbrouck Park from 1 to 2 p.m. on the day of the event. The walk at 2 p.m. will wind its way through the SUNY New Paltz campus, where additional activities will take place. An alternate walk within Hasbrouck Park will be available for the disabled, elderly or small children walking with adults. Both walks are handicapped-accessible.
Last year there were 1300 CROP Hunger Walks held globally with 116,000 participants. Some $12 million was raised. The acronym originally stood for “Christian Rural Overseas Program” when it began in 1947 to help Midwestern farm families share their grain with post-WWII Europe and Asia. Today the “CROP” designation is understood to stand for “Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty.”
Event coordinator Renee Jensen remembers participating in many CROP Hunger Walks when she lived in the Albany area. “Doing the walks every year has been one of our family’s best memories,” she says. “The kids loved it, we all talked, it was a great family experience. For me it was a bonding time, just something really special I did with my kids. One of my best memories, in fact, will always be CROP Walk.”
The tradition also allows kids to do service hours, Jensen says, understanding that in walking they’re serving the community and becoming part of it. “Our food pantry [at St. Joseph Church] feeds 500 people a month sometimes. It might be someone that just lost their job and has no money or a young mother that needs some help. Raising money for this is important.”
With that in mind, she says, she and Father Sal have modeled the event in New Paltz this year on the more inclusive CROP Hunger Walks she was familiar with from upstate New York that included lots of family activities and music that reflects goodwill without being overtly religious.
“We’re opening it up to people of all denominations this year,” says Jensen. “I see this as an intergenerational thing; the baby boomers of the ‘60s hanging out with the college kids of now. We just want to see everyone of goodwill in the town coming together as a community to do really great things.”
The walk is rain or shine. If it does rain, the activities at Hasbrouck Park and on the SUNY campus will be moved to St. Joseph Church’s hall and parish center at 34 S. Chestnut St. More information is available at www.facebook.com/NewPaltzAreaCROPHungerWalk.