VALPARAISO | When the Greater Porter County CROP Hunger Walk began more than 30 years ago, it was one of only a few local walks throughout the country raising funds for charities.
Today, with numerous organizations sponsoring walks, the competition for money is much greater, and the number of people participating in CROP has declined, said Tim Sutherland, event co-chair.
“We're trying to rebuild it because last year it was very small,” Sutherland said.
Sponsored by Church World Service, CROP — Community Responding to Overcome Poverty — provides immediate relief to victims of natural disasters and works with people nationally and internationally to address ongoing hunger needs.
Rather than providing handouts, the goal is to teach people in third-world countries how to sustain their own living through farming and the creation of wells and water filtration systems.
Twenty-five percent of the amount raised will support local food pantries, including the Christian Food Pantry, Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, Hilltop Neighborhood House, Immanuel Lutheran Church Food Pantry and Westchester Neighbors Food Pantry.
Sunday's walk was expected to draw about 60 people, including members of local churches and Valparaiso University students.
Participants gathered outside VU's Chapel of the Resurrection and listened to music by the student group Sweetwine before setting off on one- or three-mile treks through campus and downtown Valparaiso.
VU sophomore Karl Anliker, a member of the university's Social Action Leadership Team, helped recruit students to the walk.
“On campus, we're often kind of shielded from hunger in Porter County,” he said. “This gives students a chance to work with the community on hunger issues.”
While Anliker was taking part in his first walk, Chesterton resident Phil Burke Jr. has walked for CROP many times during its 30-plus years.
He said he was optimistic the efforts were making a dent in the fight against hunger.
“If we can alleviate hunger anywhere in the world, it's great,” Burke said.