COLUMBIA — Almost 100 people, some with red stop signs, swarmed downtown Columbia on Sunday — but they were not stopping. They were going, and they kept going for 2.5 miles in a movement to overcome poverty in the world.
Community members from several churches and organizations in the area gathered at 2 p.m. on Sunday to participate in Columbia’s 2011 CROP Hunger Walk.
CROP stands for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty and is a program that is a part of Church World Service. The walk began and ended at First Presbyterian Church.
“It’s a beautiful day to walk and a beautiful day to come together,” said Kathy Jackson, associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church, before the walk.
Twenty-five percent of the funds raised go toward local efforts to fight hunger in Columbia, such as Loaves & Fishes Soup Kitchen, the Russell Chapel Food Pantry and the Latter House Kingdom Ministries Food Pantry. The remaining 75 percent goes to CROP and the Church World Service, who distributes the funds to hunger-fighting development efforts around the world.
Representatives from local organizations spoke before the walk, expressing their gratitude to participants. People of all ages participated in the walk — and dogs too, though a poodle named Princess, true to her name, was carried nearly the same amount of time as she walked.
For Columbia residents Vernie Blank, 89, and Uel Blank, 90, the walk is a way of getting in their daily exercise and supporting a good cause.
“We walk almost every day anyway,” Vernie said, holding onto Uel’s elbow as they stepped over an uneven place in the sidewalk. Uel nodded in agreement and chuckled at the cars that were stopped at an intersection for the seemingly never-ending line of walkers.
“I bet he’s really grinding his teeth!” Uel said, pointing at the unmoving truck. Uel and Vernie said they have done the walk for as many years as they've been in Columbia because they see the need to stop hunger in the world, and the walk is more fun than simply writing a check to an organization.
Another participant, Hugh Curry, 72, joked that he was doing the walk because he passed by the CROP table at his church at the “wrong time” one day and was persuaded to do it. Curry was all smiles, though, and didn’t seem to mind spending his day in the sunshine with a fellow Missouri United Methodist Church member.
The sunshine and mild temperatures made for a pleasant walk. Marilyn Bettenhausen, the event coordinator, reported that $2,116 in donations had been made as of Sunday morning.
The First Presbyterian Church praise team played music before the walk started and a screen displayed messages for the walkers. The last slide on the screen left a lasting message with the participants before they started their walk:
“We walk to bring love and compassion to the world.”