Local residents, groups and organizations plan to come together once again this year to help in the fight against world hunger.
A local committee of volunteers is currently in the process of putting together final plans for the Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty (CROP) Walk, set to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at Gunn Park. The annual event has raised funds to fight hunger and poverty around the world for more than 40 years.
The Beacon, a local food pantry and community assistance agency, receives one-fourth of the money raised through the local event. Money goes toward food and other necessities for the facility.
"The Beacon gets 25 percent of the amount at the local level," The Beacon Director Bob Eckles said. "The rest of the money goes to worldwide projects, from clean water to development of literacy, especially women's education, disaster relief, to medical aid in Africa."
Eckles said registration for the walk will begin at 1:30 p.m. with participants bringing in sponsor donations and receiving free T-shirts. The actual walk starts at 2 p.m. Participants, which usually include several high school groups and members of several area churches, will start at Shelter House No. 3, and walk the circumference of the park. Refreshments will be available for participants at the conclusion of the trek.
According to a previous Tribune article, CROP walk participants walk to be in solidarity with the indigents' struggle for existence. The walk itself is symbolic of those in other countries who have to walk long distances to get clean water, as well as those locally who have to walk to The Beacon.
The first CROP walk event took place in the late 1960s, and more than five million walkers have raised millions of dollars to help fight hunger ever since. Thousands of communities nationwide participate in the hunger walk each year. Participants recruit sponsors to donate a particular dollar amount to the organization's cause, Eckles said.
"It's important because of the need," he said. "The money goes so far in helping ... Locally, we're stretched; we've had a lot more people coming in locally. The cash reduces our grocery bill ... It goes a long way toward helping the local food bank."
Food requests at The Beacon have been increasing recently, Eckles said.
"They're going up," he said. "This month has been particularly busy. We've had as many as 40 families in one day coming in."
Eckles said between 1,200 and 1,400 individuals have visited the food pantry in the last three months.
"They can come twice a month, so some of those (numbers) reflect a family that has come in twice," he said.
The first CROP walk event in Fort Scott took place in 1979 with the goal of having people of all ages walk together to take a stand against world hunger and raise awareness and funds for international relief and development.
One-fourth of the money raised stays in Fort Scott, while the remainder of a person's donation goes to Church World Services, a cooperative global ministry geared toward disaster relief, development and assistance. Individuals can also make donations in any amount and can, if they choose, designate funds to certain other international agencies.
"Church World Services will honor donations to different agencies, or they will channel it to the programs they sponsor," Eckles said. "The Beacon usually gets about $300 of the total collected each year."
In 2007, the local CROP walk brought in nearly $4,000, with The Beacon receiving about $1,000 of that total. Eckles said that was one of the most successful years for the local program.
"We'd like to get $500 this year if possible," he said. "We'd have to get at least $2,000 collected."
Eckles said there are currently 458 families registered to receive some type of assistance from The Beacon.
Individuals can support the cause by making a donation or walking. Donations can be brought to the walk or mailed to: The Beacon, Attn.: Bob Eckles, 525 E. Sixth St., Fort Scott, Kan., 66701.