Schenectady walkers take steps for hunger

They walk three miles to help others here and around the world.
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They walk three miles to help others here and around the world.

The roughly 500 people who participated in Sunday’s 30th annual CROP walk raised about $37,000 to battle hunger in the Capital Region and globally.

“We walk one day a year whereas people overseas will walk for food, for shelter, for survival,” said the Rev. Phillip Grigsby of the Schenectady Inner City Ministry, walk organizer.

The funds raised exceeded last year’s amount, and it will increase as more money comes in following the event, according to Grigsby. People can still contribute by sending checks made out to CWS/CROP to the Key Bank branch on State Street.

Seventy-five percent of the money goes toward relief efforts in Japan and Haiti, refugee resettlement and efforts to bring clean water to African villages, Grigsby said. The other 25 percent stays locally to help food pantries such as Grigsby’s, St. Luke’s, Sacred Heart-St. Columba, the Community Crisis Network and Senior Meals (Catholic Charities).

The need has never been greater, according to Grigsby, as the number of people coming to the food pantry has increased 11 percent since last year.

“We typically see 125 families a day the last week of the month,” he said. “The economy has just not rebounded like people had hoped.”

Audrey Letarte, who has been volunteering at SICM for the last 16 years, said she remembers when 60 used to be the most families she would have. She was walking as part of a group of about 50 from her church, Our Lady Queen of Peace, which was seeking to raise about $1,500.

Grigsby also presented the Sister Rachel award — named for a past dedicated volunteer — to Cathy Lewis, who he called a “champion” in raising money for the charity. Lewis is also very active in her community, including serving on the Schenectady Board of Education.

Several church groups were a part of the 3.2-mile walk, which began at Emmanuel Friedens Church on Nott Terrace then traveled down State Street, Jay Street, onto the bike path and then up Nott Street. It traveled past Union College before heading over Wendell Avenue, down Eastern Avenue and back to the church. People also had the option of walking a shorter “Golden Mile.”

Patti Freed of Schenectady said she liked that one-quarter of the money raised stays locally. She has been walking for 21 years and her son, Thomas Horne of Menands, has been a part of 20 of those walks.

“We are the slowest walkers in the entire event,” Horne remarked, when seeing the entire pack of walkers pass them by.

Patty Ward of Clifton Park, who attends St. Joseph’s Church, decided to walk on the spur of the moment.

“Wrong shoes,” she said, pointing to her dressy footwear, instead of the sneakers like the other walkers had.

Her sister-in-law collected about 75 donations from her church but was not able to make it to the event so she delivered the money on her behalf, chipping in another $20. “I’m getting a little exercise, which I need,” she said.

All ages from 95 down to children in strollers participated in the event. Six year-old Liam Post-Good of Niskayuna said he wouldn’t think of not walking the full route.

“I don’t like walking the two mile because I don’t get all my exercise. I’m doing a lot of climbing and walking,” he said.

Thirteen-year-old Bianca Mascietelli of Schenectady was also walking with the Our Lady Queen of Peace contingent along with her sister Amanda, 15, and friend Kera Hamilton, 12, of Rotterdam.

“I think it’s good that we’re coming together as a community and all working together,” she said.

Four-legged friends also took part. “We all bring our dogs, usually we make T-shirts for the dogs but we didn’t do it this year,” said Chris Keefe, whose dog Torre is named after former Yankees manager Joe Torre.

Keefe said the event brings attention to the cause of hunger relief.

“People always stop and ask us and say ‘What are you doing, why are you walking?’ ”

Categories: Schenectady County

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