Why Did You Walk Today?
Jennifer Weiner’s wristband read 11,188 steps. That’s how many it took the Springfield resident to complete the 3.7-mile Burke CROP Hunger Walk on Nov. 22. Weiner is Rabbi Educator for Congregation Adat Reyim, which sent more than a dozen volunteers to the fundraiser for the 14th straight year.
The Jewish congregation was one of more than two dozen faith organizations from around Fairfax County supplying roughly 250 walkers in total.
The route started at Living Savior Lutheran Church in Fairfax Station. Walkers then trekked north along Ox Road with traffic assistance from Fairfax County Police officers out of the West Springfield precinct station, took a water break at One God Ministry in Fairfax (where they were handed off to Fairfax City Police for escorts) and ended at Fairfax Presbyterian Church.
NOW IN ITS 23RD YEAR, the walk raised money for international support agency Church World Service, as well as donations for ECHO, the Springfield-based Ecumenical Community Helping Others outreach organization. Last year, the walk raised more than $38,000, according to organizer Janet Smith of West Springfield.
Smith has organized the Burke CROP Hunger Walk for the last 20 years and is a member of Burke Presbyterian Church, which turned out roughly 40 members. Smith said they were shooting for $40,000 in donations this year, 25 percent of which will stay local while the rest goes to Church World Service.
“They do amazing work getting people to be self-sustaining,” Smith said.
“All the people walking realize how blessed we are to have so much,” she added. “It’s great to see the community come together like this.” The first year Smith worked on the walk, there were eight churches involved and they raised just $1,000.
Rev. Scott Sammler-Michael of Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church in Burke kicked off the walk with reminders that the 3.7 miles of the walk is the average distance women in parts of Africa must travel to collect water -- a four-hour journey that includes about 44 pounds of water on the return trip.
He also noted that hunger is not a distant problem, adding that there are 73,000 people living in poverty in Fairfax County -- food insecure households with limited access to safe water.
“All the numbers have a face attached,” Sammler-Michael said, “people like those we love. There has been a reduction in hunger since 1990. Your donations and witness are part of that good news. What we do is no small deed.”
Another objective of the walk is uniting various faith organizations in the community. Jarrett McLaughlin, co-pastor of Burke Presbyterian Church, invited friends and leaders of Ezher Bloom Mosque in Fairfax to join.
“This is a great interfaith community event,” McLaughlin said. “It’s bringing us together for a common good, we need more of that in this world.”
Bilal Ankaya is the Imam at Ezher Bloom and a leader with the Institute of Islamic and Turkish Studies. “It’s our first time walking,” Ankaya said. “It feels great and it’s a good cause, ending hunger. This is the least we could do.”
Rev. Patrick Walker, Senior Community Engagement specialist with Church World Service, said there are 1,300 such walks taking place nationwide. CROP walks are the oldest national walk for hunger in the United States, beginning in 1969.
“Thank you for all you do,” he told the walkers as they warmed themselves and ate snacks at the finish line, Fairfax Presbyterian Church. “You are saving lives.”
DR. MARY SAMBA of Springfield, representing Lorton-based Future Children International, completed the walk with her grandchildren Amirah and Amare Acheampong. With their members hailing from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, they’ve seen chronic hunger firsthand in Africa. “We just want to help out,” she said.
Samba said four-year-old grandson fully comprehended the mission of the event and refused to ride in his stroller. “‘I want to walk for hunger,’” she said the boy told her. “He wanted to reach the finish line.”
For more information, visit www.burkecropwalk.org.