Midtown: Community

Walking because they walk

Jim Fairchild has a pair of slacks that his wife, Cheryl, suspects have been worn and washed only once a year for, oh, at least 25 years.

That’s about how long the Fairchilds have connected their souls to their soles as participants in Raleigh’s CROP Hunger Walk, which brings together people of all ages, faiths and communities in stride to stop hunger.

The pants, complete with a CROP Walk iron-on sticker, are Jim Fairchild’s special Crop Walk attire, topped each year with the couple’s newest souvenir CROP Walk T-shirt.

Today, they’ll join a hoped-for 1,000 walkers in this year’s CROP Walk Raleigh. Walkers gather at 2 p.m. at Marbles Children’s Museum on Hargett for the 3 p.m. walk. The trek winds downtown and through Oakwood. Its 3-mile length is the average distance a person in a Third World country walks for water.

CROP Hunger Walks across the country support the worldwide hunger-fighting ministry of Church World Service, but each local CROP Walk can put 25 percent of its pot toward the local fight. Last year’s local CROP Walk beneficiaries were Catholic Parish Council, the Food Bank of Central & Eastern N.C., Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, North Raleigh Ministries, Partners for Strong Communities and Urban Ministries of Wake County. Participants raise money by collecting donations.

“It’s just such a basic way to help people,” said Cheryl Fairchild, who walks with teams from St. Paul’s Christian Church off Blue Ridge Road. “We’ve got to have food to go to work. We’ve got to have food to go to school.

“It puts the emphasis on what’s absolutely indispensible,” she said. “It’s the heart of the matter.”

About 17.5 percent of North Carolinians live in poverty and 25 percent of the state’s children are poor, according to state-level census data. Of those, more than 82,000 live in Wake County. Also, in 2009-2010, North Carolina ranked 11th in the nation for households – almost 30 percent – with children who are food insecure, or unsure where their next meal will come from.

“If the situation is that bad in North Carolina, imagine how bad the situation is in developing countries,” said Mary Catherine Hinds, associate regional director for Church World Service. She added North Carolina’s rate of food insecurity beats the national average. Only seven states ranking at or above the same level, she said.

“There is a cure for hunger: food,” Hinds said. One dollar can feed eight people – or provide eight weekend meals for a hungry child – through the food bank, she added.

“And it takes only three cents to provide pivotal nutrients to a child in a refugee camp in Burma,” Hinds noted. “If you can provide that for the first 1,000 days of life, you can save a child’s life.

“That means $30 can get a child through the first three years of life so they have a chance to live.”

Last year, about 22,000 CROP walking North Carolinians raised about $1.2 million, Hinds said. This year, about 1,500 walkers are expected to do as the Fairchilds and many others have for decades.

Hinds said CROP Walk funds not only end immediate hunger locally and across the world, Church World Service also “puts tools in the hands of famers” and small business loans in the hand of mothers so they can buy a goat, sell its milk and use the money to feed their families.

“It’s the only way we can act locally and globally at the same time,” Hinds said. “When citizens of Raleigh come out and donate and walk, they are saying, ‘I can do something. I’m not raising money for a cure, I’ve got the cure.’ ”

Tuesday night, I saw benefits first hand when I answered a long-standing invitation by a fellow church member.

Almetta Revis, who, with her husband, James, has served meals at the Urban Ministries since the early ’80s, has done so most recently at the Helen Wright Center for Women, which helps homeless women rebuild a stable life.

The meal the Revises prepare and serve alongside volunteers comes courtesy of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, a CROP Walk benefactor. Our St. Ambrose Episcopal Church Food Shuttle Ministry gets food from the same place to distribute to families each week.

So, yes, when you see folks walking in today’s CROP Walk, you’ll be witness to a walk of compassion.