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More than 200 take to the streets to combat hunger, raise nearly $28,000

MIDDLEBURY — About 215 Addison County residents came together on Sunday afternoon not just to enjoy a leisurely, 2.8-mile walk around their shire town, but to support a cause.
Collectively, organizers of that group stroll — the county’s Annual CROP Hunger Walk — estimate participants raised through their own donations and sponsorships an amount that should approach $28,000 once all pledges are collected. Those funds will help fight food insecurity in the county and beyond.
CROP stands for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty. Church World Service, an Indiana international relief, development and refugee resettlement agency that according to its website supports “grassroots development efforts,” launched CROP Hunger Walks back in 1969.
Since then about 2,000 towns, counties and cities around the U.S. have begun to host the annual walks, typically as inclusive inter-faith efforts. They have raised collectively more than $4 million over time.
Addison County’s effort in Middlebury has become Vermont’s most successful. The 2017 Addison County walk raised $27,859, the 56th largest total in the U.S. Middlebury College’s Charles P. Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life took over organizational responsibilities for the Middlebury event in 2004.
“It’s been growing every year,” said Scott Center Program Manager Ellen McKay, who co-chairs the event with community volunteer Patty Hallam. “Every year the amount we raise grows.”
Of that total 25 percent goes to local food programs. This year, assuming the $28,000 goal is met, seven groups will share $7,000: the John Graham Shelter, the Middlebury Summer Lunch Program, Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (H.O.P.E.), the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, the Have-A-Heart Food Shelf in Bristol, the Vergennes Community Food Shelf, and the Charter House Coalition, which offers Middlebury Community Suppers.
Nationally, the CROP Hunger Walks have raised well over $4 million for hunger fighting programs throughout the world, particularly in developing nations.
According to the CROP website, “When CROP began in 1947 (under the wing of Church World Service, which was founded in 1946), CROP was an acronym for the Christian Rural Overseas Program. Its primary mission was to help Midwest farm families to share their grain with hungry neighbors in post-World War II Europe and Asia.”
Middlebury College President and honorary county Crop Walk Chairperson Laurie Patton (who along with her husband, Shalom Goldman, donated $1,000) raised that history during her opening remarks before the walk began at 1 p.m.
MANY MEMBERS OF the  Middlebury College Track and Field team walked in Sunday’s CROP Hunger Walk and collectively the team raised more than $1,000 to fight food insecurity.
Courtesy photo
Patton’s remarks resonated with Alex Wolff, a Cornwall resident and longtime CROP walker along with his family, including son Frank and daughter Clara. He said her talk made him look at the walk in “a new light.”
“She pointed out how we walk both for our neighbors and for people we don’t know around the world, and added that there’s something sacred about acting on behalf of someone you don’t know. And then she said this, which caused the tumblers in my head to fall into place: Crop Walk can be traced to the aftermath of World War II, when Church World Service fed hungry people in Europe and Asia,” Wolff said in an email to the Independent.
“And I realized that people like us had once upon a time fed my father (Frank and Clara’s grandfather), aunt and grandmother, who were food insecure in Germany in 1945 and ’46 and ’47. So you walk for people you don’t even know, and maybe even some you will know but don’t yet realize it.”
Wolff team, “The Wolff’s Den,” according to the Addison County Crop Walk website was the third most successful among fundraising groups walking, with a total of $850 in pledges. The Weybridge Wanders led the groups with $1,945, and the members of the Middlebury College track and field team, 15 of whom walked, pulled in $1,048.
Senior track team captain Lucy Lang, a Lexington, Mass., resident with “a connection to” the Middlebury Congregational Church, said it was the second year the team walked, and she hoped it wouldn’t be the last for a squad that prides itself in community involvement.
“A lot of the people on the team are really passionate about the issue of food security, given how prevalent it is in Middlebury, Vt., and are working in the local organizations and food shelves,” Lang said. “So it’s something our team really cares about.”  
Individually, walker Liane Barrera raised $1,030, and Patty Hallam, the co-chairwoman, pulled in $900. Couple John and Peg Myhre were listed third and fourth separately, but between them raised $945.
McKay said the final total won’t be known until all the pledges trickle in over the course of the next month or so, but she expects a tally in line with last year’s record amount.
“We expect to raise anywhere from $26,000 to $28,000,” McKay said. “We have some very generous anonymous donors.”
McKay said the high level of cooperation and participation among members of various faiths makes the annual walk a success.
“Its one of the things that brings all of the county’s faith-based communities together,” McKay said. “It’s everybody getting together to solve this problem of food insecurity.”
 Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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