The Cleveland County CROP Walk to Stop Hunger will launch its annual campaign to fight hunger at home and abroad with a Team Leaders Orientation at 2 p.m. Sept. 8 at Food and Shelter Inc., 201 Reed Ave. in Norman. Refreshments will be provided.
For 34 years, the local CROP Walk has brought together hundreds of concerned citizens to raise awareness about the impact of hunger and poverty.
Faith communities, civic and professional organizations, businesses, youth groups, university organizations and others are invited to form teams to raise funds to support Food and Shelter and international hunger-fighting and relief efforts of Church World Service.
During the orientation meeting, prospective walkers and team leaders can receive information about the charity walk fundraiser, which will take place Oct. 20. Participants will receive pledge packets and promotional materials to share with their teams.
"Hunger is very real in our community," said April Heiple, co-chair of the 2019 CROP Walk and executive director of Food and Shelter. "Local news has been saturated with stories about the great number of Norman school children relying on the free and reduced lunch program for their daily nutrition. Without adequate food in their pantries, their families rely on our community to ensure their children do not go to bed hungry."
Heiple said one simple way people can help is by participating in the CROP Walk. CROP -- Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty -- is the community hunger appeal of Church World Service, a cooperative ministry of 37 denominations that not only fights hunger locally but also provides development, disaster relief and refugee assistance in more than 30 countries. This year, CROP Walk is celebrating its 50th anniversary nationally.
"We welcome anyone who would like to come to the CROP Walk orientation meeting to learn more about work of Church World Service and Food and Shelter," Heiple said.
The Oct. 20 Cleveland County CROP Walk is a pet-friendly, three-mile walk that will feature a new route this year, beginning and ending at Andrews Park, 201 W. Daws St. The theme of this year's walk is "Let It Begin With Me," emphasizing the importance of personal actions to help make lasting change.
Walk day festivities will begin at 1 p.m. with the CROP Walk Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest for Children and Families, which is being hosted at Andrews Park in conjunction with the walk.
The art contest is coordinated by members of Norman Public Schools' Family Career and Community Leaders of America. Also at 1 p.m., local youth groups will be invited to participate in an education fair to help inform the community about the impact of their CROP Walk support.
Pre-walk fun includes a performance by Manyawi World Music Ensemble, as well as face painting for kids. The event will culminate with a free hot dog cookout, Eskimo Sno cones and live music provided by members of the Songwriters Association of Norman.
"Our community is incredibly generous," said co-chair Brenda Wheelock, noting that the 2018 walk was recently recognized as one of the "cream of the CROP" top fundraising walks in the country.
"Since 1984, more than $360,000 has been raised to benefit people in need, both here and around the globe. This year, we have set a goal of raising at least $22,000," she said.
Twenty-five percent of funds raised through the local CROP Walk are donated to Food and Shelte, which provides emergency housing for homeless families and free meals for those in need. The remaining proceeds support the humanitarian work of Church World Service.
"It's a great feeling to walk with your family, your friends, your community and know that, together, you are doing something to alleviate hunger and poverty globally and locally," Wheelock said.
CROP Walk sponsors to date are Ad Specialties & More Ltd., ARVEST Bank, Community of Christ Church, Dental Design Studio, FCCLA of Norman, First Baptist Church, First Christian Church, First Congregational Church, First Presbyterian Church, Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma, Lanoy Tag Agency, Legend's Restaurant, Manyawi World Music Ensemble, McFarlin United Methodist Church, Memorial Presbyterian Church, New Hope Christian Church, Norman Music Institute, Norman Singers, The Norman Transcript, NorthHaven Church, OU Campus Camera Club, Republic Bank & Trust, Sandalwood & Sage, Songwriters Association of Norman, St. Stephen's United Methodist Church, Sweet Basil Thai, Therapy in Motion, University Lutheran Church and West Wind Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
For more information, call April Heiple at 360-4954 or visit clevelandcountycropwalk.org. Residents can follow Cleveland County CROP Walk on Facebook.