Third largest Durham CROP Walk turns 40

Apr. 07, 2014 @ 11:08 AM

The third largest hunger walk in the nation started Sunday at Duke University.

About 2,000 people gathered in front of Duke Chapel for the 40th Annual Durham CROP Hunger Walk. Cool temperatures accompanied those embarking on the five-mile walk along with lots of enthusiasm.

“It’s such a great community event,” said Kaaren Johanson, the walk coordinator. “It brings so many people together. We’re working on building this into an event, not just a walk.”

Bill Reh, veteran meteorologist from WNCN-TV, served as the walk’s emcee while the Durham Community Concert Band played music. Participants gathered and non-profit organizations that receive funds from the walk set up tables with information.

Last year’s walk brought together more than 1,200 walkers, raising more than $139,000. Of that, $34,877 was distributed to local charities, including Meals on Wheels, Food Bank of Central and Eastern N.C., Genesis Home, Interfaith Hospitality Network and Urban Ministries of Durham.

When Duke Divinity and city volunteers started the walk in 1975, a little more than $2,100 was raised. Some proceeds from that walk provided seed money for Durham’s Meals on Wheels program in 1982.

Since then, the annual event has continually grown and raised more than $3.6 million to fight hunger. Of that, more than $900,000 has been distributed throughout Durham to help feed those in need.

President and CEO of Church World Service John McCullough said that he has participated in hundreds of walks all over the country, but this was only his second in Durham.

Looking back on his walk here two years ago, McCullough said, “I thought it was fantastic.”

“The energy, the number of people who came out, it was just amazing,” he said. “North Carolina has really led the nation. This is a monumental moment and one that we should not take lightly. Let’s change the reality of hunger for today and tomorrow.”

Elizabeth Wintermute said that she’s lost count of the number of Durham CROP Hunger Walks she’s been a part of, but does know that she began about 20 years ago.

“It’s just a really good program to educate the public on hunger and related issues here in Durham and other places,” she said.

Durham Mayor Pro-Tem Cora Cole-McFadden said that the city clearly recognizes that the need for food security is greater now than it was last year and that “sometimes it takes drastic steps to make drastic change.”

Duke University Provost Peter Lange said that the walk beginning on the campus was emblematic of the integration of the university and community to bring about positive change.

Before they hit the pavement, the African-American Dance Ensemble, led by Chuck Davis, helped everyone loosen up. Once everyone was warmed up, the ensemble led the walkers to the route.

Among those stretching was 82-year-old Vic Moore, member of Blacknall Memorial Presbyterian Church and participant in the original walk 40 years ago.

Krista Connelly is part of the field staff for Church World Service and has spent the last five months assisting with Durham’s walk. Compared to others, Connelly said, Durham stands out.

“It’s vastly different because of its size,” she said. “It’s definitely much more of an event here. This is our 40th year. But if you miss it this time, come out next year at the end of March. We’ll be doing it again.”