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2008 Fall Issue 2 (October 3, 2008)

Carleton student coordinates CROP Walk to fight poverty

October 3, 2008
By Lauren Blacik

Despite the weather forecast, the sun made an appearance just in time to reward 16 Carleton students who joined throngs of Northfield residents in Sunday’s CROP Walk. CROP Walk, a national event created by the Church World Service, works to fight hunger abroad by raising money to promote development in over 80 countries.

While the vast majority of funds raised benefit development abroad, local CROP Walks have the option to return 25 percent of the funds to a community hunger-fighting organization. One-fourth of the money from this year’s walk will go to the Community Action Center Food Shelf.

“25 percent [of proceeds] going to the CAC is a way to have direct impact and recognize that hunger and poverty are local issues,” Laura Shatzer ‘09, Carleton’s CROP Walk coordinator, said. The destination of the other 75 percent of funds concerned some walkers.

“I’m not really clear where the money is going,” said first year participant, Mike Stevens ’10. According to CROP Walk’s website, CROP Hunger Walks help to support the overall ministry of Church World Service. The website also stresses the development work of partner agencies, but names no specific countries or programs.

The trust afforded to the Church World Service may influence who participates in the event. With the exception of the two colleges, most Northfield participants were recruited by local churches, and congregations were major fundraisers. Other sponsors included local businesses and national corporations, such as Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

A member of Emmaus Baptist said her religion had nothing to do with her participation. “It’s social-conscience building. I know it’s mostly people in the church community, but maybe more people should put together teams.”

“[CROP Walk] brings together a specific segment—churches—but it’s rare that different denominations will unite around one cause,” Shatzer said.

In Northfield, the CROP Hunger Walk is organized through a cooperative effort among the area churches, including St. John’s Lutheran, St. Dominic’s Catholic, United Church of Christ, Emmaus Baptist, United Methodist, and several others.

This year’s walk began at St. John’s Lutheran Church with a short rally. The atmosphere was festive; participants crowded into the church’s social hall for registration and encircled musicians drumming outside. The walk itself began around 3:15 pm, with a heavy stream of people filling the Second Street sidewalk for several blocks. Most walkers took the 1.7 mile route, though some processed further down Washington, walking 2.5 miles in total.

Turnout for the event was stronger than any walk in recent memory for both Carleton and Northfield. Shatzer said she was surprised at the many unexpected participants.

“Usually at these things, it’s everyone I know. It’s great to see so many I don’t.” Many thanked the weather for the impressive participation. Last year the walkers combated pouring rain.

Forces beside weather may be drawing Northfield residents and Carleton students to the streets.

“This year people are more aware of the importance of this event because of the economic downturn,” A Northfield resident and third-year walker said. Strong financial support for the Community Action Center may by one avenue for expanding CROP Walk’s reach beyond the churches: this year Jim Blaha, executive director of the CAC, had a central speaking position in the opening rally.

Student participants like Stevens seemed at least partially motivated by the opportunity to be a part of the Northfield community.

“I was curious about how it will bring Northfield together,” said Stevens, “and I like the positive energy behind it.” The day may have started under cloudy skies, but concluded in a sunny, if slightly ambiguous, community celebration.

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