CROP Walk fights hunger and builds faith

April 20, 2013 

Since childhood I have participated in activities addressing human needs, such as CROP Walk and other volunteer causes. My parents gave time and money to assist neighbors in need and other community and worldwide causes, and I participated with them when possible. The resolution of local and world hunger issues depends on the individual efforts of many. Volunteering is not just an expression of my faith because the blessings I receive doing it strengthens and grows my faith.

The 33rd annual Thurston County CROP Walk on May 5 is a community-based fundraising event that raises money for local hunger-fighting agencies as well as the international relief and development efforts of Church World Service.

The walk itself is symbolic — a way of showing solidarity with people in developing countries around the world. Many of these people, especially women and children, walk miles each day to get water and collect firewood. The walk’s theme is “Ending Hunger One Step at a Time.”

CROP funds help to provide tools that empower people to meet their own needs. From seeds and tools to wells and water systems to nutrition-enhancing Moringa trees to technical training and micro-enterprise loans (such as a sewing machine to start a business), the key is people working together to identify their own development priorities, strengths and needs.

After earthquakes, tsunami devastation and hurricanes, CWS was able to immediately provide temporary shelter, food and health support while planning for the transition to long-term recovery. In Haiti, CWS provided $2 million in material aid and distributed thousands of CWS blankets, hygiene kits and tents. Contributions to CWS’s hurricane recovery appeals help CWS respond to immediate needs and long-term recovery of communities.

CWS is a cooperative ministry of 37 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations, providing sustainable self-help and development, disaster relief, and refugee assistance in more than 80 countries. The reason CWS is able to make swift and effective response to disasters (within hours) is in large part because of the ongoing support raised by CROP Walks. Of the 1,434 walks in 2012, the $46,530 raised by Thurston County was the 31st-largest. Seventy-five percent of funds raised go to CWS and 25 percent to Thurston County hunger programs.

According to a 2003 report by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, 11.2 percent of U.S. households at some time during the year did not have access to “enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.” Thurston County hunger agencies are continually facing increased demand for their services. Thurston County hunger programs that receive CROP funds are: Thurston County Food Bank, Salvation Army’s Community Kitchen, Senior Services for South Sound’s Senior Nutrition and Meals on Wheels programs, St. Vincent DePaul Society’s hunger program (at St. Michaels), GRuB (Garden Raised Bounty) and First Baptist Church’s Sunday Dinner Feeding program.

A CROP Walk is not just a fundraising activity. It is as much a way of building community among people of different cultures and faiths as it is an opportunity for participants to help solve big problems with their small, individual efforts.

Join us by becoming a walker or volunteer, or make a donation in support of a walker. Donations may also be made on the Internet at

The 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) walk begins and ends at the State Capitol on Sunday, May 5, with registration starting at 12:30 p.m., a pre-walk program at 1:15 p.m. and the walk starting at 1:30 p.m.

For more information, call Interfaith Works at 360-357-7224, or Wayne Gruen at 360- 352-9703.

Wayne Gruen is a member of the First United Methodist Church of Olympia. He and his wife Carol have participated in Thurston County CROP Walks since 1981 when Carol helped start the first one. Wayne has been the organizer for 12 years. Perspective is coordinated by Interfaith Works in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Interfaith Works or The Olympian.

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