CROP Walk in Severna Park to help needy here and abroad


September 27, 2001|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NEXT MONTH'S "CROP Walk" in Severna Park will raise money for the impoverished abroad.

It will also help the needy closer to home.

CROP - short for Church Rural Overseas Project - is a national program started in the aftermath of World War II by a group of farmers from America's Midwest. The farmers wanted to share surplus crops with the people of war-torn Europe.

Now administered by Church World Service, a nondenominational religious organization, the project distributes emergency goods and self-help services to more than 80 countries worldwide, as well as throughout the United States.

CROP is supported by a series of fund-raisers. For the past 20 years, Severna Park has sponsored a CROP Walk to raise money for the project's services.

This year's walk will be held - rain or shine - from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 14 on a portion of the B&A Trail Park. The 6.2-mile walk begins and ends at the Community Center at Woods at 63 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd. The walk follows the B&A Trail to West Pasadena Road and returns to Woods, but participants may choose to walk as long or as far as they wish.

Twenty-five percent of the money raised is again earmarked for the Severna Park Assistance Network (SPAN), an agency that serves only residents of Anne Arundel County. Last year the organization received more than $9,000.

"People need agencies like us just to get by, to pay for prescriptions for medical emergencies, to pay the rent when eviction notices arrive and to pay electric bills," said Kimberly McGrath, director of SPAN.

The walk also offers residents of Anne Arundel County an opportunity to express their support for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America. The project is currently providing a long-term response to the attacks, which began with pastoral care in New York City, Virginia and other locales. Other efforts include child care and emotional support services to children of the families and victims of the plane disasters.

Sally Vavrek, a director of the Severna Park CROP Walk, has participated in the event for several years with her church, Asbury United Methodist. To her, one of the most memorable aspects of the event is the "fellowship of friends from churches and schools walking together."

Besides highlighting the issue of world hunger, the walk helps participants identify with people around the world who must walk to survive, said spokeswoman Yvonne Aasen. For instance, women and children in poor villages of Africa, Asia and South America must walk for miles to another village with a well to get water each day.

It costs CROP $5 to provide a basic farm tool for impoverished people. In underdeveloped countries, these "tools of hope" include such items as hoes and trowels, a well and pump for a village and fishing nets and young fish to stock a pond. The program also provides education and training.

While making a difference on a national and international level, a portion of the local proceeds from CROP walkers' sponsors directly benefits county residents through SPAN.

At a recent board meeting, McGrath said she encouraged SPAN's 16 sponsoring churches to participate in the CROP Walk. Participation, she points out, increases visibility for SPAN and other organizations that help those in need.

"The money from CROP Walk is used immediately," she said, adding, "There has been a steady increase in clients."

In April, SPAN helped 283 families, in July, 335 and in August, 342.

"The increase in clients this summer is due mostly to people being way behind in paying their BGE bills," she said.

Because of the constant flow of people, SPAN's emergency food supply is low, said McGrath.

Still, she is grateful for the generosity of individuals, organizations and businesses such as Safeway. She said Safeway managers Randy Easterly at the Benfield store and Teresa Ross at the Arnold store recently arranged for donations of $500 from each store to buy hearing aids for a 3-year old Arnold girl so she can attend a school for the hearing-impaired.

Two other CROP Walks are planned in the county. One - for residents of Glen Burnie and North County - begins at 1 p.m. Oct. 7 at Glen Burnie United Methodist Church on 2nd Avenue. Contact Paul Shaffer at 410-987-8015 for information.

The other is at 2 p.m. Oct. 28 in Quiet Waters Park. For information, call Nancy Lear at 410-268-2259.

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