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Walk raises funds, offers reflection on lives of the needy

Over $9,000 raised through last year’s event, committee member says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An annual walk to benefit those in need is also a chance to understand how the needy live, organizers say. Several Auburn-area churches are hosting the 16th annual Auburn CROP Hunger Walk. The walk begins at 1 p.m. Sunday at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Orange Street in Auburn. According to Auburn resident Sue Dings, who has been on the Auburn walk’s committee since it began, the CROP, or Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty, walk began nationally 42 years ago and is sponsored by Church World Service, an international organization of 37 Christian communions. According to Larry Soderman, chairman of the walk committee, 25 percent of the funds gathered through the walk go back to the Auburn community by benefiting the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet and Auburn Salvation Army. “The walk is important because it provides funds to help feed needy people not only in the United States but throughout the world,” Soderman said. “A lot of the money supports self help programs as opposed to just direct handouts.” Dings said last year 197 people participated in the walk and raised $9,185. Soderman said the walk is primarily faith based. Churches assign a recruiter who publicizes the walk in their church. When walkers sign up, they pledge a certain amount and then encourage friends and family to sponsor them to meet or exceed that amount. Church World Service’s slogan for the walk is “Ending Hunger One Step at a Time,” and Dings said the walk is meant to represent walking in the shoes of those who need help all over the world. “Part of the idea of the CROP walk is that we are walking three miles and other people have to walk lots more miles just to get water, food and help,” she said. “So, we are sort of experiencing a little bit of their pain.” Dings said as part of the event, people sometimes bring their dogs out on leashes to walk with them, and one man even brings his cat to take part in the stroll. All age groups can participate in the event. Auburn resident Mary Jo Buettner said this is her second year participating in the walk. She said she takes part because of the help it offers to the community as well as for the fun of it. “Because some of the money is kept locally, and I’m a volunteer at the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet,” Buettner said. “And they can certainly use the money, and the needs there are expanding every year — for our community as I’m sure it does for all the communities. It’s fun. It’s great camaraderie just to get to talk to people you have never met and walk around and see parts of the city you don’t really pay attention to.” Buettner says she brings her grandsons, ages 7, 9 and 11, along and said she thinks it’s a good lesson in teaching them to give back to the community. Loomis resident Jack McMillan said he has been participating for four years and is one of the coordinators. McMillan said his church, Auburn Presbyterian, has been participating since the event began. “It’s a great day, it’s a good walk, good exercise,” he said. “I think it’s one of the more fun community events where we get other churches all doing something together, much like the food closet or things like that where it’s a cooperative effort.” McMillan said he thinks the event helps remind the different paces that people outside the United States are living and how in some areas they have to put more work into get the resources they need. Auburn resident Frank Sweeney participates in the walk every year. He also volunteers at the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet. Sweeney said while it’s nice to have donations, the closet also appreciates funds from events like the walk because then it is able to buy what it needs. “Our donations are really down this time of the year and because of the economy, so it helps us buy food,” he said. Dings said it’s not too late to sign up and those interested can contact her or Soderman. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ----------------------------------------------------- 16th annual Auburn CROP Hunger Walk What: A walk to raise funds that go back to the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet, the Auburn Salvation Army and Church World Service. When: 1 p.m. Sunday Where: Walkers meet at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 124 Orange St., Auburn Contact: For more information or to sign up, call Sue Dings at (530) 885-9009 or Larry Soderman at (530) 888-8656. Website: Visit Churchworldservice.org/CROP, click on Find your Walk, select California and click on the Auburn walk.