CROP volunteers walk to battle hunger
SCHENECTADY There’s an old picture of Chris Onderdonk-Milne holding up a CROP Hunger Walk sign, directing participants toward a parking lot. He’s so small in the shot, the sign he’s holding covers up much of his body.
On Sunday, his mother, Victoria Onderdonk-Milne, showed off the photo with evident pride as Chris, now 18, stood on the corner of Chapel Street and Nott Terrace, holding a very similar sign.
His 13-year-old sister, Marina, was on the other side of Chapel Street doing the same, and a short distance down the road, their father, Nick, held up his own parking sign.
The Scotia family has been helping direct traffic at Schenectady’s CROP Walk for 14 years.
“We’re the parking family.” Victoria Onderdonk-Milne announced. “We just love doing it together; it’s a tradition now.”
Chris succinctly summed up his reason for helping out annually: “It’s just something that can help people and it’s not really that hard,” he said, his eyes on the approaching vehicles.
Coordinated by Schenectady Inner City Ministry and sponsored by Church World Service, the CROP Walk raises funds to end hunger locally and across the globe.
Sunday’s event kept the Onderdonk-Milnes busy with plenty of traffic. An estimated 500 walkers participated.
Organizers were hopeful that the walk would bring in $55,000 in donations.
A portion of the proceeds will be used to buy food for SICM’s food pantry on Albany Street. Food for the pantry is purchased for 16 cents a pound at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.
“I can buy a case of 10 boxes of cereal for a dollar something; you would pay three-something for one box at the market,” said Gail VanValkenburgh, director of SICM’s food program.
Sneaker-wearing participants gathered at Emmanuel-Friedens Church on Nott Terrace Sunday afternoon. Some stood in the shade of apple trees about to burst into bloom while others basked in the warm May sun.
Rich Leet and Lisa Plass of Rotterdam were there with a group from St. Gabriel The Archangel Church in Rotterdam.
Leet said his church makes sure even the youngest parishioners are aware of the need that exists locally.
“It’s not in Africa; it’s not in Asia. It’s two miles from here. People are hungry; in any direction, the people are hungry,” he said.
Cathy and Brad Lewis of Schenectady turned in a donation envelope containing more than $1,800 Sunday. The couple have been participating in the event for between 15 and 20 years.
“I just think it’s a really good benefit for the local food pantries and to help out. I’m aware of the poverty issues in the city and county of Schenectady,” Cathy Lewis said. “I’m also associated with the school board and I’m aware of how many children we have on free and reduced-price lunch.”
On the lawn at Emmanuel-Friedens Church, a band played. People slipped new CROP Walk T-shirts over their heads and tied shoelaces in preparation for the walk.
The walkers did not travel through the areas of the city where hunger is most prevalent, VanValkenburgh said.
“But they need to remember that over 50 percent of children [in the city] are in poverty,” she noted.
A quarter of the funds raised in the CROP Walk will be dedicated to ending hunger locally.
The balance will help provide food and water in other parts of the world, as well as resources to empower people to meet their own needs.
Provided goods and services range from seeds and tools to technical training and microenterprise loans.