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Walking for Hunger Awareness

Annual Crop Walk in Burke draws 350 people on Sunday at Living Savior Lutheran Church.

From grandparents to kindergartners, nearly 350 people gathered at Burke’s Living Savior Lutheran Church on Sunday for a Crop Walk.

“There are millions of people in the world who are walking for their very existence. We walk because they walk,” said Janet Smith, the event’s coordinator.

Now in its 12th year locally, the Crop Walk is an outreach effort from Church World Service, an international relief organization based in New York City. Among its many other projects, CWS organizes local versions of the walk in communities across the country.

This year, 30 Crop Walks took place in Virginia, and about 2,000 took place in the United States, in both the fall and spring.

“I think it shows people want to help, to do something. This is an easy way, to come out and walk in solidarity,” said Kathleen Klassen, assistant director for the Greater Mid-Atlantic Region, which includes Virginia. Klassen said the Crop Walks are the top income-generator for CWS annually, providing $16 million a year.

Participants in the walk are given sponsor packets and are responsible for raising support through donations. All donations are divided between CWS and a pair of local organizations. Smith said this year, the outreach groups Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO) and Western Fairfax Christian Ministries were to receive 15 percent of the money raised. The remainder goes to help CWS with its projects worldwide.

Sunday’s event included members from 16 different congregations in Springfield, Burke and Fairfax Station, and, for the first time, a group from George Mason University’s Catholic Campus Ministries (CCM).

“It’s a big experience. I know we’re just going on a walk, but it’s still something we can do,” said Mason senior Catherine Leonard.

Sophomore Jessica Aldrich, who helped promote the event on GMU’s campus, said 20 students participated in Sunday’s walk, and it was part of CCM’s “Hunger and Homelessness Action Week,” which included other activities like taking brown-bag lunches to the homeless in Washington, D.C., and a food and clothing drive.

“[We did it] to raise awareness to the students on campus, to realize they are very blessed and we should give back some of what we’ve been blessed with,” said Aldrich.

Sunday’s event began at 2 p.m., with a welcome from U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11th) and comments and a prayer from MaryAnn McKibben Dana, associate pastor at Burke Presbyterian Church, followed by a roll call of organizations participating. Then, the 300-plus walkers headed across Ox Road, with the help of an escort from the Fairfax County Police Department, and south toward Burke Centre Parkway. Their destination was Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in Burke.

“It’s the least that we can do to help our family around the world,” said Smith.