By Tom Holmes
After more than two months of counting, the final numbers are in.
This year's Hunger Walkathon West—also known as the CROP Walk—raised $70,335, of which $17, 584 will benefit 10 local support service groups working to end hunger in Oak Park, River Forest Chicago and elsewhere, according to Ted Despotes, the treasurer of Hunger Walkathon West. The CROP Walk was held May 5 and raises the ninth-most out of the approximately 500 walks in the nation.
Beyond Hunger—also known as the OP-RF Food Pantry—will receive $1,202. The agency, housed in First United Church, is by far the largest local operation supported by Hunger Walkathon West. Its 2017 annual report states that over one million pounds of food were distributed that year to people claiming residence in one of 13 zip codes.
The nonprofit rebranded recently to more accurately reflect that the agency does much more than give out food to hungry people in Oak Park and River Forest. For example, Beyond Hunger made the news this year regarding the cooking classes they have been holding.
"Our service offerings," states the Beyond Hunger website, "seek to provide the food, resources, knowledge, and skills people need to live healthy, active lives. Our services range from helping people connect to benefits like SNAP ("food stamps") and Medicare Savings, to nutrition education and cooking classes lead by registered dietitians, and summer meals for kids who lack them when school is out."
Another local food pantry to receive funds is the Forest Park Food Pantry, which is projected to receive $1,960.
Meghan Dowdle, director of the food pantry at the Howard Mohr Community Center, 7640 Jackson Blvd., said that 50 to 60 people come in during this time of year daily for food, and range in age from couples in their 20s to a single man who is 89.
"I don't refer to the people who come in as 'clients,'" Dowdle said. "They have names. I know a lot them and they know me. It's hard to walk in anywhere and ask for help."
CROP Walks are sponsored by Church World Service, which is "a faith-based organization transforming communities around the globe through just and sustainable responses to hunger, poverty, displacement and disaster." The phenomenon started in 1946 by 17 denominations in the aftermath of World War II "to do in partnership what none of us could hope to do well alone." The acronym CROP originally stood for "Christian Rural Overseas Program," which sponsored "friendship trains" that went across the country, with volunteers picking up commodities like corn, wheat, rice and beans, and shipping them to war-torn Europe, and other locations experiencing hunger around the world.
More recently Church World Service, in recognition that hunger is a local as well as global issue, instituted a policy that states that 25 percent of money raised in CROP Walks could remain in the area where the walk was held and be given to agencies there.
In addition to the Forest Park Food Pantry, the Proviso Food Pantry—which is housed at Cosmopolitan United Church, 1112 N. 9th Ave. in Melrose Park—is slated to receive $2,046. Jerry Hill is the coordinator of this hunger ministry, which is supported by volunteers from River Forest United Methodist Church, which started the program 30 years ago, along with St. Paul Lutheran Church in Melrose Park.
Proviso Food Pantry is an agency of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which provides canned and boxed "shelf-stable" food that is supplied by the federal government, farms, manufacturers and local food retailers.
Hill said that the Proviso Food Pantry serves about 80 clients each week.
"Anyone who lives in the Proviso Township and qualifies due to low income can receive groceries every Saturday from 8 to 10 in the morning. Registration requires only proof of residence and takes just a few minutes," he said.
For more information, or to volunteer, call the River Forest United Methodist Church office at 708-771-3668, or email them at email@example.com.
Other Proviso Township agencies that will receive grants are First Baptist Church in Melrose Park, which will receive $1,889; Housing Forward, $1,234; Vision of Restoration Food Pantry in Maywood, $1,451; and St. Eulalia Quinn Center in Maywood, $1,919.
Cluster Tutoring, a community nonprofit that provides free one-to-one tutoring to 115 students in grades kindergarten through 12, who come from primarily the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's West Side, will receive $2,207.
Kara Kalnitz, executive director of Cluster Tutoring, said the organization was created in 1990 by several churches in Oak Park "in response to the disturbing statistic that less than half of Chicago Public School students graduate from high school. Each tutor is matched with a student, and the tutor-student pair works together during the school year to prepare the student for a successful academic career."
The leadership team of the CROP Walk, the mission of which is to feed hungry people, distributes funding to the program because Cluster Tutoring also provides healthy snacks to their students.
Other nonprofits east of Austin Boulevard that will receive funding include St. Martin de Porres Food Pantry, $1,328; and the Pine Avenue Food Pantry, $2,338.
Tom Holmes was the grand marshal of this year's CROP Walk.
Answer Book 2019
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