CROP Walk against hunger on Martha’s Vineyard

With piper Tony Peak leading the way, walkers head out from St. Augustine's Church on Franklin Street in Vineyard Haven. — File photo by Susan Safford

This Sunday, October 24, at 2 pm one hundred or more Islanders will set out from St. Augustine’s Church on Franklin Street in Vineyard Haven on the Island’s 20th annual CROP Walk. Participants make the ten-kilometer trek to Oak Bluffs and back to “raise money to end hunger at home and around the world,” according to the Church World Service, the umbrella organization that sponsors some 2,000 CROP Walks all across the United States. CROP is an acronym for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty. Last year CROP walkers raised more than $15.4 million nationwide.

The Rev. Alden Besse, coordinator of the Vineyard CROP Walk, encourages everyone to come out to walk or to sponsor a walker, “This is an Island-wide effort,” he said early this week. “No one is excluded.”

Of the money raised, three quarters is channeled to 80 countries around the globe, including the United States, and one quarter goes right back to the community where it was raised to support food banks, soup kitchens, and community gardens. A little money can go a long way. Twenty-five dollars provides a farm family with everything they need to make honey %u2014 the hives, the training, the equipment. One hundred dollars buys 250 chicks, which will grow up to be egg layers.

The Vineyard CROP Walk is sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Clergy Association, Vineyard Committee on Hunger, the Island Food Pantry, and supported by many high school students. The money that comes back to the Island will support the Island Food Pantry.

Early this week, Mr. Besse said the goal this year is to raise $20,000. To help make this happen the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard is offering the incentive of $100 gift certificates to the five individuals who raise the most money. Three of the certificates will go to walkers under 20 years old and two will go to walkers over 20. The winners will be identified and notified on Sunday, Nov. 7, at St Augustine’s Church between 2 and 3 pm when the money is handed in and officially tallied. On top of this, four generous Islanders are each offering a nickel for every dollar raised, turning $1 into $1.20.

Mr. Besse spoke very highly of the work of World Church Services, stressing how effectively the organization works. By focusing on links with trusted individuals, instead of governmental agencies, World Church Services is able to make sure the money is used where it is needed. “In Iraq, for example,” Mr. Besse said, “when they warned everyone to get out, we continued to distribute through local people on the scene and made sure people received water, blankets, tents, and transport.”

There is still plenty of time to sign up, or sponsor a walker with a pledge, or simply make a donation for Sunday’s CROP Walk. You can register or donate online at Or, if you prefer the old-fashioned way, call Alden Besse at 508-693-3930 or Vineyard CROP Walk co-chair Philip Dietterich at 508-693-1673. Or just show up Sunday at St Augustine’s Church ready to go. Walkers are urged to check in by 1:40, so the CROP Walk can begin promptly at 2 pm.

The CROP Walk will take place rain or shine. Islanders are encouraged to come out and walk any distance they can. If anyone needs help, police will be nearby to assist them.

Last year a 97-year-old woman and a four-year-old-child led the CROP Walk. This year the walk will be led by Mr. Besse, 86, who has participated in CROP Walks for 30 years, 19 of them here on the Island. “When I started I couldn’t finish the walk, but now I can,” he said, adding that it’s not as important to finish as it is to participate %u2014 as a walker, donor, or supporter.