Sunday's sunny skies and crisp autumn breeze couldn't have been a better setting for the 8th Annual CROP Hunger Walk, an interfaith event to help ease hunger and homelessness in Colorado Springs.
Hope Beasley, 11, and her sister Evelyn, 8, participated in the hunger walk with their grandmother, Marja Maddox, for the third year. Maddox said she likes supporting the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which receives 25 percent of the money raised at the walk. Participants raise money by finding sponsors for their walk and getting donors throughout the community.
"We like being part of the walk, and the girls always have fun," Maddox said. "We enjoy supporting and helping our community."
Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty, or CROP, started picking up steam in Colorado Springs in 1987, and the walk became an annual event in 2005, when churches around North Circle Drive took up the cause and gave it momentum.
The Colorado Springs CROP Walk is part of a worldwide charity event helping Church World Service. Each fall, a collection of churches get together to walk to end hunger. Careyn Mason, a member of First Faith Presbyterian, got involved with the CROP Walk in 2005 and has coordinated the event since.
"There's a lot of people who know someone who's homeless and hungry, or who's just a step away from getting there," Mason said. "The Interfaith Hospitality Network gets 25 percent of the funds raised from this event, which they use locally, and Church World Service distributes the other 75 percent among various charities."
This year's walk drew more than 150 participants with 10 registered churches, and started and ended at Grace & St. Stephen's Episcopal Church on North Tejon Street. Walkers chose between a 1-mile and a 3.1-mile route through downtown Colorado Springs.
Although the number of participants has dwindled in recent years, Mason said it's not discouraging, but rather an indication of other things concerning the community.
"Last year the Waldo Canyon fire and this year the Black Forest fire and the floods really got the community's attention, so it's natural for people to feel like it's more timely to help out those causes," Mason said.
In 2011, Mason added, a record of more than $12,000 was raised through the CROP walk. More than $9,000 was reported in early donations this year, before all sponsors and online donors were accounted for. Since 2005, Colorado Springs CROP Walk has raised nearly $73,000.
"Our goal is to have 15 churches participate and collectively raise $15,000," Mason said.
Amanda Harders, director of volunteers at Interfaith Hospitality Network, helped coordinate this year's CROP Walk for the first time.
"This event really underlines the way that a community works for itself and helps out," Harders said. "We're always so excited to be the local recipient of the walk's funds because they go such a long way to end hunger."
Go to http://coloradospringscropwalk.com.