Faith Matters: Following by leading

  • Steve Damon in front of the United Church of Bernardston. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • CROP Walk Coordinator Steve Damon walks in front of the United Church of Bernardston. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • United Church of Bernardston Recorder file photo

Coordinator of Christian Education
Published: 10/25/2019 2:08:43 PM

(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email

Church World Service instituted its Christian Rural Overseas Program (CROP) in 1947. Midwest farmers donated grain to post-World War II Europe and Asia. The first CROP-related Walk took place on Oct. 17, 1969, in Bismarck, N.D. Twenty-six days later, I was born in Greenfield, Mass. Yup, CROP Hunger Walk and I are celebrating a golden year together. Church World Service found a walk the most appropriate way to raise money, as many people have to walk many miles on a daily basis to fetch fresh food and clean water. For the last few years, I have coordinated Franklin County CROP Hunger Walk. I, in essence, follow Christ by leading the Franklin County, Mass., CROP Hunger Walk.

The CROP Hunger Walk webpage tells me, “Today, we’ve outgrown the acronym but we retain it as the historic name of the program. CROP Hunger Walks are interfaith hunger education and fundraising events sponsored by Church World Service and organized by CWS local offices across the U.S.”

CROP Hunger Walkers ask friends and family to sponsor them in the walk. Our Franklin County CROP Hunger Walk typically raises about $25,000 a year. Seventy-five percent of that money goes around the world to feed the hungry, teach sanitation to people in Thailand, expand farms in Indonesia, dig wells in Ethiopia, etc. For the last couple of years, many funds have gone to the Caribbean for hurricane relief. The remaining 25 percent comes right back to us. Our walk splits the funds into equal parts for five hunger-related agencies: Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Hatfield; Franklin County Survival Center, Montague; West County Community Meals, Shelburne; Hilltown Food Pantry, Ashfield and Community Meals, Greenfield

Our Franklin County CROP Hunger Walk occurs in different towns, as it is hosted by a different church each year. This year, Sunderland Congregational Church played host, while United Methodist Church of Leyden did so in 2018. It’s not definite, but it looks as though Central Congregational Church of New Salem members will wear the host hat next year.

Although most of the funds come from walkers’ donations, some churches come up with clever fundraisers. Dave from South Athol UMC a few years ago rented out boats and sold hamburgers to raise funds. Virginia from Charlemont Federated Church carries extra water containers during the Franklin County CROP Hunger Walk to raise money. As I am a music teacher, I enjoy throwing concerts. On Dec. 8, United Church of Bernardston will host Franklin County TubaChristmas, with the proceeds going to the walk.

Although CROP Hunger Walk celebrates its 50th year, here in Franklin County we held our 33rd Franklin County CROP Hunger Walk on Oct. 13. Approximately 125 walkers traversed through “the prettiest foliage in years” of Sunderland. Eighteen churches participated.

I visit many of these churches to promote the walk. At every church I ended up saying, “Christ tells us to love one another — to help one another. The walk is yet another way for us to show Christ’s love. When we walk Franklin County CROP Hunger Walk, we follow Christ.”

I will happily follow Christ next year, by leading the Franklin County churches (including yours) in the 34th Franklin County, Mass., CROP Hunger Walk.

About United Church of Bernardston

United Church of Bernardston is a United Methodist Church/United Church of Christ federation. We are located at 58 Church St. Our worship services are Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. We are a Reconciling Ministries Congregation and Open and Affirming Church who welcomes all who continue in Christian growth. Many church members gather on a monthly basis for UCB Pub Talk, where we share in a meal and discuss Christian topics. To contact us, call 413-648-9306. We are online at and on Facebook at


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