A group of dedicated church folks — Joyce Rickson, Margery Pierce, Phil Dietterich, Betsy Holcomb, Woody Bowman, Susan Waldrop, and John Meade — gathered last week at the First Congregational Church in West Tisbury to meet about this year’s CROP Walk, the 27th annual walk, planned for Sunday, Oct. 15, with a start time of 2 pm, with registration beginning at 1:15 pm. Woody Bowman from the Congregational Church hosted. Woody’s first CROP Walk experience was in 1978, and now he oversees the finances of the Island’s walk. He takes over from the esteemed retired Rev. Alden Besse, who by all accounts, could persuade the staunchest couch potato to walk the roughly six miles from St. Augustine’s Church in Vineyard Haven to Trinity United Methodist at the Campground in Oak Bluffs.
Woody reminded me that “we walk because they walk.” Millions of people in other countries, especially women, he said, walk that far every day to get drinking water. “Walkers are encouraged to go the full six miles, but many will go just one way, and some will only go a portion of that. Whatever they are comfortable with and able to do,” he wrote in an email.
The CROP Walk is an endeavor of the Church World Service (CWS). According to CWS’s 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 share their grain with hungry neighbors in post–World War II Europe and Asia.
Today, CROP Walks are interfaith hunger education and fundraising events sponsored by Church World Service and organized by CWS local offices across the U.S. Community organizations with no religious affiliation are also welcome to participate in the walks.
Twenty-five percent of whatever is raised stays within the community. In the Island’s case, those funds will benefit the Island Food Pantry and the Vineyard Committee on Hunger (VCOH). The local CROP Walk committee determined in recent years that they would use the average amount raised over the past five years and donate it to the Island Food Pantry; anything over that average will go to the VCOH.
Last year, more than 17 faith communities and Island organizations raised $22,255, with 99 people participating in the walk. The Island Food Pantry received $4,282.80, and VCOH received $390.75. This year’s goal is $25,000.
New England and Upstate New York’s CWS representative, Adam Smedberg, was at the meeting last week, and shed some light on the great benefits of community CROP Walks.
“If we hit the goal, $6,250 stays here,” Mr. Smedberg said. “The rest of the funding goes to support CWS programs. Right now we are supporting our neighbors in Houston, the Gulf Coast of Florida, Haiti, and other islands.”
He brought along a list of the impacts even the smallest gift can offer: $1 buys $10 worth of groceries distributed by U.S. Food Banks; $25 can buy 50 chicks, a self-propagating food source; $100 can provide 222 pounds of food distributed to families in need; $1,000 can purchase a pump so that a community has access to clean water — and the training required to use and maintain the pump.
“CROP Walk brings ecumenical communities together who may not ordinarily come together,” Adam said. “Hunger is not just a Christian, Methodist, or Lutheran problem.”
Signing up for the CROP Walk is easy. Pull together a group of friends, co-workers, neighbors, or your family — or just yourself, because you’ll make friends as you walk — and start collecting donations. All the donations go into a single envelope, available from any of the people on the CROP Walk committee or at most Island faith communities. You turn the envelope over to Woody after the walk and he tallies up the contributions. There’s also a great alternative if you’re unable to walk on Oct. 15: donate online at bit.ly/mvcropwalk. If you want to find out more, call Woody Bowman at 508-693-7240, and he can get you started.
The First Congregational Church is hosting an interfaith book group in October. The group will read “Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for a Soul of a Generation,” by Eboo Patel. Copies of the book are available at the church office, and discussions are planned for Oct. 4 and Oct. 11, from 5:30 to 7 pm. Call 508-693-2842 to register for the group.
Rabbi Lori Shaller is offering her Spiritual Eldering in Seven Sessions course again this fall. The course details how to craft the best last third of your life. You can begin to envision the future you’d like to have and learn ways to plan for the legacy you want to leave behind. The course is ideally suited to those aged from 40 to 60, and is hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard, 238 Main St., Vineyard Haven. The course meets on Thursday evenings, 6:30 to 8, from Oct. 19 to Dec. 7. Call 774-521-5717 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church will take a group of high school students to Boston for CityReach, an overnight urban outreach program that serves the homeless in the city. The program begins on a Friday night and ends on Saturday afternoon. Young people and their chaperones will learn firsthand about homelessness from those who have experienced it. They’ll collect clothing before they leave for Boston, and once there, will prepare and serve a simple meal while those in need “shop” from clothing and other donated items. St. Andrew’s rector, the Rev. Chip Seadale, contends that the whole experience can be amazing and enlightening for those who make the journey. Find out more by calling Pastor Seadale at 774-563-9716.
On Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 11 am, the Neighborhood Convention will meet at the First Congregational Church in West Tisbury. Worship will be led by the Rev. Cathlin Baker, and the program will be “Welcoming the Newer Island Clergy,” with the Reverends Eibner, Christian, Berube, and Wright. Bring a bag lunch; dessert and beverages will be provided by the hosts.