Rail Trail Ready to Crop and Roll

Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.

Once a year, the Wallkill Valley Railtrail System is flooded, not by water, but by footsteps. Under the trees and through the leaves, dozens of walkers who have helped raised thousands of dollars march to signify their stand against world hunger.

The New Paltz Crop Walk is an annual affair put on by the New Paltz Student Christian Center to raise awareness and take a stand against hunger in the world. Crop Walk participants are excited to celebrate the event’s 40-year-anniversary on Oct 20.

The six-mile walk starts at SUNY New Paltz’s Campus Parking Lot 18, on the corner of South Manheim and Plattekill Avenues.  Walkers will congregate in the parking lot and then travel together to the Rail Trail.

Event Coordinator Jane Congers said that she can hardly wait for this year’s New Paltz Crop Walk  and the event’s 40-year-anniversary.

The New Paltz Walk-a-Thon for hunger relief was started by Pastor Paul Walley in 1973, and was originally held on the SUNY New Paltz campus’s field track, Congers said. He was “a shaker and a mover,” Congers said.

Crop Hunger Walks are community-wide events sponsored by the Church World Service (CWS) and organized by congregations or groups in the surrounding area.

Over 2,000 communities throughout the U.S. participate in over 1,600 Crop Hunger Walks every year, according to the CWS global website. In the last two decades, as many as five million have walked in over 36,000 Crop Hunger Walks.

The first event attracted as many as 50 university students, and raised $2,000.  In recent years, the Crop Walk has grown dramatically in size and support, Congers said.  The Mohonk Mountain House and Mohonk Preserve allowed use of their grounds for the walk, and the event’s popularity increased. The 2011 Crop Walk attracted 115 walkers and over $15,000 of donations.

Twenty-five percent of the proceeds from each Crop Walk event stays in the local community to be distributed to not-for-profit establishments battling hunger, Congers said. The 2010 funds were split between the Wallkill Food Pantry and Family of New Paltz, according to the CWS global website.

This year, like past years, there will be a silent auction with gifts provided from local businesses, Congers said.  She said she doesn’t have a set amount for how much she’s hoping the walk will raise in donations, but she said she is optimistic the community will come together for the cause.

“We just finished making our banner,” Congers said, “with the ‘40th Anniversary’ on it – We’re all really excited about that.  It’s going to be a really great event.”