Harvest walkers seek renewed growth of event

Sep. 29, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Pining for the success of years past, many of those at Saturday’s Harvest Walk said they hope that within a few years, the event grows from about 40 or 50 participants back to the hundreds who used to come out.

This year’s event was sponsored by about a dozen local churches, although First Presbyterian took the lead. The church, at 203 Hawkins Avenue, served as the starting point of the walk and also brought out many of the walkers. The aim of the Harvest Walk is to raise money for local groups which help the needy.

Organizers said they were hoping to get about $5,000 in donations this year. The proceeds will be split between CUOC (Christians United of Lee County), the Bread Basket, HAVEN (Helping Abuse and Violence End Now), Meals on Wheels, Outreach Mission homeless shelters and Lee County BackPack Pals.

Deacon Scott Kimble of First Presbyterian said that before the first group of walkers departed at 8 a.m. Saturday, a preacher asked the crowd to start shouting out their favorite foods. He stopped them after 60 seconds and said that on average, 17 people die of hunger every minute.

“Here we were, yelling about spaghetti, hamburgers, barbecue, you name it,” Kimble said. “It was sobering, you know? Yelling out all our favorite foods and then being told that in that minute, all those people had died.”

J.C. Perry, a fellow church member who said he has been attending some sort of hunger walk in Lee County for at least the past 30 years, said hunger isn’t just a third-world problem. It’s visible in Sanford if you know where to look, he said, so he’s glad activities like this exist. However, he still remembers the crowd of 361 people in 1983 for what was then the CROP Hunger Walk.

“That is the goal, is to go back to that,” Perry said. “... Bring back what we had then.”

Bob Davis, another deacon at the church, agreed. The Jonesboro Rotary Club had helped with the event in the past, but this year it fell to the churches entirely. Davis said that while many of the 14 churches sent donations or walkers, First Presbyterian took on most of the work this year. Next year, he said, he wants it to be a more communal effort.

Someone else at the event looking to grab the attention of many local churches was Adriana Sallahu, an Albanian missionary living and working in Kosovo. Sallahu is on her second trip to the United States trying to drum up spiritual and financial support for her work with a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ in Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo.

Sallahu came to Sanford because she knows Aaron Smith, a local man who is also doing missionary work in Kosovo, a country whose population is mostly Muslim. She was at Saturday’s walk with his dad, Ken Smith, as well as other Smith family members. Sallahu will be visiting several local churches in the next few weeks, she said, with a simple pitch.

“The idea is to reach out to the Muslim world,” she said. “And try to show them Christ.”

But international mission work wasn’t the focus of Saturday’s walk; hunger was. Lucille York, however, had a slightly different take on it herself — she said it’s really all about community.

“That’s my slant on it,” she said. “Not that hunger isn’t important. But you’re walking around and seeing our beautiful town, all the shops opening, talking to people on their porches and getting them to join in (she pointed to a man signing up late in the walk, and said he was one such example), just really getting to appreciate what we’ve got.”