On Sunday, May 2, area residents will take to the sidewalks and trails of Lowell as part of the annual CROP Hunger Walk. Now in its 27th year locally, the event seeks to raise both awareness and funds to end hunger in Lowell and worldwide.
This year’s event will be held in a hybrid format with a virtual opening at 1pm followed by a car caravan to the Wittenbach Wege Center for those who want to walk on the trails there. Otherwise, participants are free to walk wherever they want as part of the event.
“It’s very much a free form type of walk,” explains Paul Benjamin, event coordinator. While participants traditionally walk as a group, the pandemic has required organizers to make changes. Despite the challenges, Benjamin says he is simply glad to see the event continue and participation remain strong.
Pandemic Means Change of Plans
This is the second year the Lowell Area CROP Hunger Walk has had to make changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year was very chaotic,” Benjamin says. Organizers needed to quickly shift gears once the pandemic hit, and it was decided that a virtual event would be best. Rather than have participants meet and walk together, everyone was asked to walk alone in some way. Despite the change, the walk was still a success.
“We ended up raising about $9,000,” Benjamin notes. That was slightly lower than the $10,000 – $12,000 raised in a normal year, but organizers were very happy given the circumstances. Of the money raised each year, 75% supports international hunger relief efforts while 20% goes to Flat River Outreach Ministries and 5% is sent to Senior Neighbors.
For 2021, organizers are still giving participants the choice to walk where they like. However, those who would like a more structured activity can head to the Wittenback Wege Center where there will be multiple trail options to allow people to spread out.
How to Participate in the CROP Hunger Walk
Those who would like to participate in the Lowell CROP Hunger Walk on Sunday, May 2, can meet at the parking lot of the Lowell United Methodist Church at 621 E. Main Street at 1pm. People should remain in their vehicles and then tune into Zoom or a Facebook livestream for announcements, information and an opening prayer. Alternatively, people can view the virtual opening from home.
Then, those who would like to walk at the Wittenbach Wege nature trails can drive in a caravan from the church to the center. Otherwise, participants can select their own route. CROP Hunger Walk suggests a distance of 1-5 miles to replicate how far people in some parts of the world must walk to get water.
Participants are encouraged to raise money to support their walk, but that’s not a requirement. Benjamin hopes anyone interested in the cause will head out and walk on Sunday to raise awareness for the issue even if they prefer not to gather pledges.
For those who do want to raise money, Church World Services, which oversees the nationwide event, has made it easy for those who register to share the walk on Facebook and collect donations there. What’s more, an anonymous donor has agreed to provide a 50% match of up to $250 raised by any team of three or more Lowell youth.
The CROP Hunger Walk is organized annually as a joint effort among several local churches. In 2021, four congregations are taking the lead: First Congregational UCC of Lowell, Bowne Center United Methodist Church, Lowell United Methodist Church and Vergennes Church.