Volunteers step in for annual hunger walk
"There wouldn't have been a CROP Walk for many years, if Kristi Johnson hadn't volunteered to chair it," says Paul Boling, senior minister of First Christian Church. Paul and his brother, Dave, associate minister at the church, stepped up to chair the Walk this year and last year, when Kristi needed a break. She'd been chair or co-chair for 10 years.
"It's such a good event for the whole community," Paul states. "It's a fundraising walk to alleviate hunger, here and around the world. I know how much it means to Kristi. And I can't say enough good things about her. What a superb human being."
Kristi, a senior herself, stresses that the CROP Walk can appeal to people of all ages, all physical abilities.
"I love doing this walk. I'm passionate about it," she affirms. "It's flat, short, very pretty – in the Goose Lake area. This is my charity walk, the one charity walk I do.
"I was sad last year when I was unable to walk," she continues. "I was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer in July of 2015, and would undergo several months of treatment – chemo, surgery, radiation. I stayeded involved in the committee work to plan the walk, but I didn't have the energy to actually do it."
Carolyn Hollar, a member of the CROP Walk committee for many years, bursts with praise for what Kristi was able to do last year.
"Kristi was just awesome! Maybe she didn't have the energy to actually walk, but despite her health issues, she poured so much enthusiasm into the planning. She was at every committee meeting, inspiring and amazing, so organized. We were all very grateful – and impressed."
"This year, this September, I'm walking!" Kristi wants this known. "I'm back in top form. I had a total positive response to the chemo, an excellent response to treatment, and this February, I was told that I am cancer-free. I am incredibly lucky.
"And I'll tell you why the walk means so much to me. No one should be hungry. I am passionate about trying to feed people. We live in a world with enough resources, enough food for all. We just need to redistribute it. There is too much waste."
Kristi affirms what the CROP Walk professes universally. " 'We walk because they walk.' There are people all over the world who walk seemingly endless miles, each day, for their food, their water. We can do this short walk, one step at a time, to recognize this, to raise funds to alleviate this hunger."
This year's Anchorage CROP Walk will be held on Sunday, Sept. 25, beginning at First Congregational Church, 2610 East Northern Lights Boulevard. Registration is at 12:45 p.m. and the Walk starts at 1:30. Bagpipers from the Crow Creek Pipes and Drums, will lead the way. A post-walk celebration with live music and home-made treats begins at 2:30 p.m. The popular group, Vinyl Floors, will play as part of the festivities at the Walk's end, as they did last year.
The CROP Hunger Walks are community fundraising events sponsored by Church World Service. Twenty-five percent of the money raised in the Anchorage Walk is distributed to local hunger-alleviating agencies. This year's agencies are F.I.S.H (Fellowship in Serving Humanity) and the Lutheran Social Services of Alaska Food Pantry. There will also be a food drive on the day of the Walk to benefit Food Bank of Alaska. Those donations may be brought to First Congregational Church at the Walk's start.
"We were astonished by the amount of food brought to that food drive last year," Kristi states, "a veritable mountain of canned goods and dried food items. We'd set a fundraising goal of $10,000 for the 2015 Walk, and we soared past that goal. It was a soggy, very wet day, so we were also surprised that about 125 people ventured out into all that wet to walk."
Encouraged by last year's results, the CROP Walk committee has set a goal of $15,000 for this year's event, with a stretch goal of $20,000.
"It's really something of a community festival," Kristi says, "as well as a fundraising event. With live music at the beginning and end, information booths set up by non-profits at the finish, and food treats. People really lingered and celebrated what they had come together to accomplish last year. It's a great way to kick off fall events, for church groups, youth groups, individuals and groups of any kind.
"I think you can tell I kind of like this Walk," Kristi adds, smiling. "I was especially grateful for it last year when its planning served as a welcome distraction from all my health concerns. I hung in there. It felt as if I still had some normal stuff going on in my life.
"And this year, I will be out there, one of them, gratefully and happily walking."
To learn more about the CROP Walk and to register, you can visit the website http://www.crophungerwalk.org/anchorageak, or call Paul or Dave Boling, ministers at First Christian Church, 272-0615, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.