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A moment in Durham: ‘I’m gonna do something for someone today’

The hum of tuning tubas radiated from the base of Duke Chapel as a band got ready to play. Folding table legs snapped into place and voices echoed around the quad as people assembled. The air was still and cool, even with a bright sun. It was almost time to move. 

The CROP Hunger Walk isn’t new to Durham. The Durham CROP Walk, which supports efforts to fight hunger locally and nationally, first happened 50 years ago. On Sunday, Richard Santos, CEO of Church World Service, took to the stage and told the crowd that Durham’s CROP Hunger Walk has become the largest of its kind, larger than similar events across the country. 

The Durham event raised over $120,000 this year alone. The bulk of the funds go to Church World Service’s international efforts against hunger, such as the Seeds of Hope for Nutritional Food Security in Guatemala. A quarter of the funds remain in Durham, benefitting community groups that fight hunger, such as  Mt. Calvary UCC Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels and 12 other local groups. 

As Durham hosted its 50th walk to raise money for the hungry, dogs wore bunny ears, dads wore foam taco hats, and others wore event T-shirts with cartoonish corn characters holding hands. Alice Sharpe, the event coordinator, moved through the growing crowd. “The committee has been awesome, they do what they say to do,” she said warmly.

Mayor Leonardo Williams took the podium to send off the crowd. “This is truly the best of Durham,” Williams said with both hands in the air. He applauded the folks that, “get up and say ‘I’m gonna do something for someone today.’” 

Williams stepped off the podium to join the walk. “There are all age ranges out here, all races, all genders…,” he said. “People are out here for a common purpose.”

The bright neon vests worn by CROP coordinators reflected orange onto their faces as they stepped onto Campus Drive into a growing crowd.

Father Gonzalo Torres of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church wore his brown robes to the walk. He walked on his own, with a slow pace and focused eyes, smiling at those who approached him. “I want to be in solidarity with those who go without anything to eat,” he said. 

People carried posters, many of which included facts about miles women in developing nations travel to find water. Others carried their children or pushed strollers as the walk moved towards Markham Avenue. The crowd ambled between the sun and shady trees, smiling — the event is intentionally not a race.

The CROP Walk exists in a special place in Mayor Williams’ eyes. “We have enough that divides us. I just want to be able to promote what brings us together.”

At the end of the crowd, an older woman walked on her own. The buzz of the crowd faded ahead. Only her clicking cane was heard. “I don’t know how long I’ve been coming to these,” Kendra Van Pelt said. “I had to turn back [last year],” she said, pointing to her knees and hips, “but they say there’s no shame.”

Van Pelt kept trailing the crowd with her clicking cane. When asked why she was there, she was quick to answer between breaths, “for the hungry!”

Above: Scenes from the 50th Durham CROP Hunger Walk. Photos by Reece MacKinney — The 9th Street Journal. 

Reece MacKinney