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Regional churchgoers walk for local, international hunger relief

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Fighting local and world hunger is an ongoing battle, but the Rev. Leon I. VanWie told participants in Sunday’s CROP Hunger Walk in Watertown that they should be encouraged that progress has been made.

“About 18 or 20 years ago, I used the example that a child died from hunger every three seconds,” said the Rev. Mr. VanWie, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church, 327 Franklin St. “This year, that’s gone to every five seconds. That’s 12 per minute instead of 20 per minute, so we are making progress.”

About 40 congregants of six area churches started a walk from Stone Presbyterian Church, 140 Chestnut St., on Sunday after raising pledges. The annual event is organized by Church World Service, a nondenominational emergency relief, refugee resettlement and sustainable-development organization.

“Part of the problem is that there is actually plenty of food in the world, but it needs to be distributed differently,” the Rev. Mr. VanWie said. “Part of it is education, but this provides funds to distribute food.”

Of the money collected by the churches, 75 percent will go to the service’s global food effort and the remaining 25 percent will go to an area food pantry. This year, it will be one in the Dexter and Brownville area, the Rev. Mr. VanWie said.

“We try to spread it around,” he said.

Over the years, the Watertown-area walk has raised $144,573, of which $26,816 was distributed locally. The Rev. Mr. VanWie said the goal is about $10,000, but last year, the walk raised about $7,000.

Many of Sunday’s participants have raised money year after year.

“There is a lot of poverty and a lot of hungry people in the world,” said Nancy Roberts, a member of Brownville United Methodist Church, 311 Brown Blvd. “And the Church World Service not only gives food, they also do water projects, give seeds and teach people how to plant.”

In the spring, the church also participates in a tool and blanket fundraiser for the service and puts together hygiene kits the service uses for disaster relief.

Ms. Roberts and Alice E. Sykes, who attends Dexter United Methodist Church, 300 W. Kirby Road, couldn’t remember how many years they’ve walked — well over a decade.

“It’s a good cause,” Ms. Sykes said.

Other churches involved in the Watertown walk are First United Methodist Church, 236 Mullin St.; United Presbyterian Church, 101 S. Broad St., Sackets Harbor, and St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, 12 E. Main St., Sackets Harbor. Other walks this weekend were held in Alexandria Bay, Carthage, Brasher Falls, Hammond, Norfolk and Pulaski.

Malone will have one Oct. 16, and Cape Vincent will have one Oct. 23.

“Every year, a number of children equal to the population of Jefferson County — 116,000 — dies of hunger and related diseases,” the Rev. Mr. VanWie said.

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