Steps taken to end hunger; Fund-raiser: Howard churches and synagogues plan a walk Sunday to raise money to alleviate suffering.

Members of synagogues and church congregations will celebrate the coming of spring and the joy of exercising with loved ones while they walk a 2 1/2 -mile course Sunday, raising money to help alleviate the suffering caused by world hunger.

It is the 18th year that Howard countians will participate in a spring Communities Reaching Out to People (CROP) Walk. Church World Service, a relief, development and refugee assistance ministry of 35 denominations, sponsors the ecumenical event.


The cross-cultural, interfaith event appeals to people who want to help others by marching but not protesting. Participants have been gathering sponsors and will represent their co-workers, neighbors and families. For most walkers, this is the only fund-raising walk in which they will participate this year, according to Church World Service."You'll see people with strollers, with pets, friends and children," said veteran CROP walker Shirley Wolf of Ellicott City.

The first CROP Walk was held in 1969 in Bismarck, N.D., where a thousand people walked and raised $25,000 to help stop hunger. The idea caught on and within a few years, hundreds of CROP Walks were taking place. More than 2,000 communities in the United States participate.


Howard County's effort is been coordinated by Suzanne Waller of the Columbia Jewish Congregation and George Martin, a lay deacon of St. John's Roman Catholic Church in Columbia and a 25-year member of the interfaith organization Columbia Cooperative Ministry (CCM). A coalition of Howard County's 240 religious congregations of all faiths, CCM is the driving force for the CROP Walk.

The coordinators seek to raise $8,000 this year. Of that, 75 percent will go to anti-hunger efforts of Church World Service or the walkers' choice of another international charity. Options include the Heifer Project International and American Friends Service Committee."We'll give a local hunger group the other 25 percent of the funds raised," Martin said. "Howard County's portion of the money will go to Coalition for Compassion, which provides medications, food, and eviction and gas turn-off prevention for needy Maryland citizens."Here's something special that the Coalition for Compassion does," Martin added. "They provide a meal on the second Thursday of every month so that families who are being helped can gather to share support. The coalition will feed 50 to 100 people each night."

The CROP Walk will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Gateway Office Building, off Route 175 on Gateway Drive. Walkers will check in at a table there, turn over donations and begin their walk of one, two or three rounds of the 2 1/2 -mile driveway."Last-minute" walkers are welcome to participate."May is a busy month - there are so many things to do," Wolf said. "But I have walked the CROP Walk for years. Members of my congregation, Columbia United Christian Church, sponsor me."At different times, I have encouraged others to walk with me or walked by myself. I have even walked in the rain," she said. "I'll walk again this year - it's the right thing to do."

Information: 410-730-9132or 410- 730-7862.