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Fighting hunger every step of the way

Members of the Newfound Area churches step up to the plate in the fight against hunger, holding the 11th annual Crop Walk on Sunday afternoon at the Bridgewater Hebron Community School. Marcia Morris. (click for larger version)
May 06, 2009
NEWFOUND—It was good exercise for a good cause and the spirit was strong on Sunday afternoon as members of the Newfound Area Churches gathered for their 11th annual local Crop Walk to fight hunger.

Crop Walk is a program of Church World Service that encourages community members to walk together to raise awareness and funds for international relief and development as well as local programs to fight hunger in the community. Proceeds from this Sunday's walk benefit many projects worldwide, as well at the work of the Bristol Community Services Food Pantry.

On a day when in Boston, 44,000 people reportedly showed up for the annual Project Bread Walk Against Hunger, raising nearly 4 million dollars for Massachusetts' food pantries and soup kitchens, residents of the Newfound area showed up to do their part as well.

Crop Walkers from the Newfound area churches worked for the last six weeks getting pledges from friends, family, congregation members and the community. United Church of Christ Pastor Doug Hedstrom started the walkers off with a prayer of gratitude for the opportunity to be of service and walkers of all ages, many accompanied by their four legged companions, took off on the one mile trek around the grounds of the Hebron Bridgewater school. It was a wonderful family activity, with young children enjoying the event and the chance to try out the playground equipment on the school grounds. But it is not all about fun. Church World Service has a Sunday School curriculum available to help children understand the need and the importance of fighting hunger worldwide.

The need has never been greater. Bristol Community Service board member Barbara Stokoe said that the Food Pantry depends upon the annual Crop Walk for donations to support its work. She said the pantry has seen a spike in families seeking assistance, especially in the past three months as the downturn in the economy has begun to hit hard.

"The pantry is now serving 72 families in need," said Stokoe. "I can't tell you how many meals that is. That is a record demand."

But Stokoe says that the community has always responded when the cupboard has been bare. The ministers of the Newfound Area churches are quick to appeal to their congregations for assistance when there is a need, and others in the community also rise to the occasion to meet the challenge.

Local businesses like the Bristol Shop N" Save, the Sidewalk Café and others are generous contributors. The Bristol Curves recently collected 540 lbs of food from clients. The Newfound Regional High School students held a soup drive in January that yielded enough soup to last until next fall. The Lions Club, the Pasquaney Garden Club and Rotary Club are active contributors as well. Community members also give of their time and expertise to do repairs at the Community Services Thrift Shop on North Main Street, or work on the computers. "It's a small town, but people are really generous," said Stokoe.

Financial, food and material donations to Bristol Community Services are welcome at any time. They are open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more information on organizing or contributing to Crop Hunger Walks visit the website at www.churchworldservice.org.

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