Sunday was not a day of rest for 60 religious communities in the Quad-Cities, as an estimated 700 people practiced what they preach in helping the needy through the 41st annual CROP Hunger Walk.
The goal of the six-mile, bi-state walk -- from Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport into Rock Island and back -- was reaching the Quad-Cities fundraising record of $60,000, set last year, said Anne Wachal, program director for Churches United. The nonprofit group, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and operates food pantries and meal sites throughout the area, is one of five local beneficiaries of the walk.
The tough economy has made it harder to raise money, she said, but that also has driven up the need to feed the hungry. Churches United has seen a 10 to 15 percent increase in the amount of food given out, and people in need over the past year, Ms. Wachal said.
To help boost donations, Dan Steele, bronze medalist from the 2002 U.S. Olympic men's bobsled team and a Sherrard native, signed autographs before the walk and took part in the walk. The head track and field coach at the University of Northern Iowa, Mr. Steele also was the CROP Walk honorary chairman 10 years ago, Ms. Wachal said.
The Quad-Cities walk's 2011 total was 16th highest of all 1,411 CROP Walks in the country, said the Rev. Russell Melby, Iowa regional director for Church World Service, which launched the first walk in October 1969 in Bismarck, N.D., and serves as national coordinating group for the events.
This year, walks nationwide are expected to raise about $4 million. One-quarter of the money a walk raises stays in its local community, and a good deal goes to Church World Service to meet food and water needs worldwide.
Rev. Melby said the reasons the Quad-Cities walk has been successful include the consistent support of Churches United and of area faith communities, and the fact that it's the nation's only bi-state walk. In fact, it's the only one that crosses a river, he said.
The Quad-Cities raises more than any other metro area in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The nation's biggest CROP Walk is in Charlotte, N.C., where they last raised $285,000, Rev. Melby said.
St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Davenport had 77 members walking Sunday, including many students in seventh through ninth grades, said Ray Knight, youth ministry coordinator.
"They're trying to learn more about service, about making an impact on the world," he said. "Many are getting ready for confirmation." The church raised about $800 and included an extra collection for CROP Walk at Mass this past weekend, Mr. Knight said.
"I do it to encourage the kids. It's a growth opportunity," he said. "Our congregation out here is putting our faith into action."
"Our church is heavily involved in it," said Rick Nagel, of Park View, who attends St. Mark's Lutheran in Davenport. The church runs a food pantry, and "we need the food," said his wife, Candy, who volunteers for the pantry. Their church raised about $900, and the Nagels walked in Sunday's sunny, brisk weather with their grandkids Reese and Kendall.
"I love walking with the kids. We have fun," Mr. Nagel said.
Barb Paul, of Davenport, walked with her friends Marcia Brunsvold and Sheila Gallagher. All are members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Pleasant Valley, one of the top five CROP Walk fundraising churches in Iowa. They expected to raise up to $4,000, and they just have 100 in attendance at Sunday services, Ms. Paul said.
"It is very gratifying," she said after the walk, when participants were enjoying water and granola bars. "I love that our church members support us."
The women walked in honor of Dick Matson, a longtime CROP Walk participant who passed away in 2009. He always recruited church members, said Ms. Paul, who sported a button with his picture on it. "He really got our congregation inspired," she said.
"I love it. It's a great cause," Ms. Gallagher said.
Rabbi Henry Karp, of Davenport's Temple Emanuel, has participated in more than 20 walks. He said he remembers when it used to be 10 miles long, and it started at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
"This is kind of a sad CROP Walk for me," Rabbi Karp said, noting he usually has walked with family members, but now his kids are out of the house, and his wife, Gail, has been transferred to TACOM in Detroit, and only is home every other weekend.
"I just try to help people out that need help," said temple member Stuart Waxenberg, who also has walked for many years. "The world could use a lot of healing."
Today is Thursday, April 24, the 114th day of 2014. There are 251 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We learn that it is a contemplation to start a paper mill in Rock Island during the summer by a gentleman from the East. 1889 -- 125 years ago: The gates of Oklahoma were swung open at noon today, and a throng of more than 30,000 settlers started over its soil. 1914 -- 100 years ago: The Iowa Coliseum Co. was incorporated with $40,000 capital and planned a building on 4th Street between Warren and Green streets in Davenport. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans are being discussed for resurfacing the streets in the entire downtown district of Rock Island. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Some 45 jobs will be created at J.I. Case Co.'s Rock Island plant in a expansion of operations announced yesterday afternoon at the firm's headquarters in Racine, Wis. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Gardeners and farmers cheered, but not all Quad-Citians found joy Saturday as more than an inch of rain fell on the area. Motorists faced dangerous, rain-slick roads as the water activated grease and grime that had built up during dry weather.