Members of seven churches from across Nassau County gathered in Eisenhower Park on a chill, overcast Saturday for Nassau County’s 10th annual CROP Hunger Walk in support of dozens of aid programs, local and worldwide.
“Each participating church has a captain, and the captains get together to organize the walk,” said Arlene Kallaur, one of two team leaders from Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, in East Meadow, who was the overall coordinator for the walk, as well as the liaison with Church World Service. CWS administers the worldwide aid programs the walks support. Holy Trinity has many members from Wantagh and Seaford.
Sonia Mobilio helped Kallaur lead the Holy Trinity team, which brought the largest contingent to the walk. Teams also came from St. Gregory of Nyssa Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church, in Seaford, led by the Rev. Andrew Gromm; Bellmore First Presbyterian Church, led by the Rev. Dr. James Barnum; and St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral, in Hempstead, and team leader Stephen Pontichio. First-time walkers from St. Stephen’s Malankara Orthodox Church, in Franklin Square, joined veteran teams from Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, in Brookville, and St. Andrew’s Orthodox Church, in Dix Hills.
Church World Service is a cooperative ministry of 37 denominations founded in 1946, in the wake of World War II, to support a wide variety of needs worldwide, including victims of war, natural disasters, hunger, homelessness and poverty.
The organization is also involved locally. “Twenty-five percent of the money raised goes to a charity chosen by the local sponsor,” Kallaur said. This year, Holy Trinity chose the Freeport Food Pantry, operated by the Long Island Council of Churches, as the beneficiary. Holy Trinity has been helping support the pantry for many years, and pantry director Yolanda Murray was on hand to express her appreciation.
“It’s our 10th walk,” Kallaur said, “but it’s the 50th year since the walks were first held.”
“In the past, a lot of our work had to do with refugees. But with the situation now …,” she added, her voice trailing off.
Nevertheless, programs funded by the walks have helped people in need in dozens of countries. They helped Naomi Kiragu install a biogas digester in her village in Kenya, so that she no longer needs to cut down trees for fuel. Surukhan Bekauri’s family, in the of Galavani, Republic of Georgia, gained access to safe drinking water for the first time, and was able to build eco-toilets and install a sewage system as well.
Hlwan Kip Tlem, an ethnic Chin from Myanmar, was sponsored by Church World Service to migrate to the U.S. from Malaysia, where she and her family were refugees. She was not allowed to attend school in Malaysia, because she was a girl. After coming to the U.S., she graduated from high school in Indiana, and next year she will study engineering at the University of Evansville through a scholarship from the Eli Lilly Foundation.
CROP Hunger Walks have helped thousands of such cases in the 50 years since the first walk was held in 1969. Programs to promote clean water, micro lending, animal husbandry and education represent just a few of the ways in which the walks have helped. And CWS sponsors aid programs in the U.S. as well, including disaster relief after major storms like Hurricanes Katrina, Maria and Sandy.
The number of walkers was about the same as last year, Kallaur estimated, when some 150 people from a half-dozen parishes took part. Walks are broken into one- and two-mile courses to accommodate participants of all ages and abilities.
In what has become a tradition, a breakfast buffet was served before the walk, and there was pizza afterward. Matushka Dennise Kraus made her famous soup, and musical entertainment was provided by Tom Chupka.
This year’s walk has raised nearly $10,000 to date, and contributions may be made through the end of the year. To make a pledge by phone, call (800) 297-1516. Checks may also be mailed to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, Ind. 46515. For more information, visit www.crophungerwalk.org.