Locals seek to end hunger, bring awareness with CROP walk

D. EVERETT SMITH/Sun-Gazette Correspondent The Rev. Tammy Aichner, center, her husband Dan, along with other members of the First Church of Christ-Disciples in Williamsport walk along the Susquehanna River Walk, between Market and Maynard streets, to help raise funds and awareness for people suffering from hunger.

Lycoming County residents committed to their faith turned out recently to walk against hunger at the 40th annual CROP Hunger Walk.

Participants began their journey at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, on Market Street, at 1:30 p.m. and strolled around the Susquehanna River Walk for three-, six- or nine-mile increments. The walkers began by reading a special prayer, “With each step, we dare to imagine a world where hunger has no chance to show its face.”

To prevent hunger from showing its face, participants were sponsored through every mile walked or a flat donation. Last year, other walkers from around the country raised over $9 million, while over $11,000 was raised in Lycoming County.

The Rev. Gwen Bernstine, director of the United Churches of Lycoming County, registered walkers and handed them an orange sticker that said, “I am ending hunger.”

She said the national walk began in the late 1940s after World War II. Farmers were encouraged to donate wheat to help feed the hungry in other parts of the world. For the last four decades, Williamsport has hosted a walk.

According to event chairman Rev. Ken Wagner-Pizza, the Williamsport CROP Hunger Walk is expected to raise over $10,000 this year that will go to support the Church World Service (CWS), which sponsored the national event. Wagner-Pizza said a portion of that money returns to the community to support local charities like New Love Center in Jersey Shore, the Sonlight House of Muncy, United Churches Food Pantry and Sojourner’s Truth.

“(The funds) help out buying some of the heavier canned food and buy in bulk and very cheap,” Wagner-Pizza said.

Tammy Aichner, pastor of First Church of Christ-Disciples in Williamsport, participated with family and friends from her church. She said sometimes her family members will look for something to eat in the cabinet and not like their choices.

“I remind them that there are people out there who can’t even make a choice,” Aichner said.

She added that by walking, she is able to help those who are starving.

Phyllis Maggs, of South Williamsport, walked last year and wanted to be a part of it again this year.

“If I’m here, I’ll do it again next year,” Maggs said with a laugh.

According to Patty Gohrs, who works for the UCLC, the event has brought members of the community together.

“It’s all about relationships with others and (connecting them) with others who do not have so much,” Gohrs said.

Because of that, she made sure to pray with all the walkers before they headed out.

“I think it’s very inspirational. I think it gives (the walkers) a sense of security knowing someone has prayed with them,” Gohrs said. “It kind of makes me feel closer to the people and it.”

Wagner-Pizza said besides Williamsport, walks were occurring in Hughesville along with two in Cogan Station.

However, he said for people not able to participate, they can raise the support online.

Gail Landers, a member of the New Covenant United Church of Christ, agreed with Wagner-Pizza.

“It’s not a once-a-year fundraiser. It really is ongoing because the need is daily,” Landers said.

She and the Rev. Joe Hopkins, chairmen of the Care Social Committee for the UCLC, were on hand asking participants to send a copy of a letter addressed to U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Cogan Station, and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, letters asking for continued assistance to fight hunger.

“As Congress works on the fiscal year 2019 budget and spending bills, I ask you to invest in and protect key programs that will reduce hunger and poverty” such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” the letter said.

It concluded, “My faith calls me to urge you to make public investments that will move toward the end of hunger.”

For more information about the CROP Hunger Walk, visit www.crophungerwalk.org/williamsportpa.

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