SPARTA, NJ –On Sunday, October 14, Sparta church members from different congregations united to raise money for the CROP Hunger Walk 2012. Encouraged by the Sparta Ecumenical Council, the goal was $10,000 for the day. This interfaith effort was supported by Sparta United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church of Sparta, Our Lady of the Lake Roman Catholic Church, and Blessed Kateri Tekawitha Roman Catholic Church.
James Hix, youth minister at Sparta United Methodist explained, “The walk is sponsored by Church World Services, which is ecumenical. Twenty-five percent of the money goes back into our community. This year, it will go to the Food Pantry at Sparta Presbyterian. The other 75 percent goes to third world countries, where people are really hurting. This program gives them a sustainable way of living by providing livestock, such as chickens.
He said $150 gives a family 100 chicks and two wire coops.
"This will provide a reliable source of food, eggs, protein and income," said Hix.
Fr. Pat Rice, Pastor of Blessed Kateri parish, said, “We’re encouraging our young people to walk, because the people who are affected are young people. In our culture, young people have many things, but maybe they are not all necessary. There, many, many young people just need the necessities, food water, health care. People die because they don’t have these needs met. We have a moral responsibility here, St. Ambrose said, ‘If you don’t feed the person dying of hunger, you kill him/her.’”
Walkers met at the Sparta United Methodist Church, crossed Rt. 517 and walked down Sparta Avenue, made a left on Main Street, passing the First Presbyterian Church of Sparta, under the overpass to Station Park, and returned the same way.
“I’d like to feed everybody in the world if it were possible,” said Joan Shaw, from Our Lady of the Lake in Sparta.
Her grandson, Steven Penna, agreed, “She’s the one who dragged me out, but I’m more than happy to be here, especially with my Grandma. Also, it’s a good cause.”
Shaw solicited outside many stores in the past month.
“People put in what they could, maybe $1 to $2, some of the merchants put in a little more," she said. "The Columbiettes, Marquette 588 Council put in $50, that helped bring it up a little bit.”
Altogether, Shaw raised $315.
Margaret Plevin, from the First Presbyterian Church of Sparta recalled, “We’ve done it for many, many, many years. We used to walk around Lake Mohawk. We have a food pantry, where I’m on the front line. I sign the people up, pray for them, and give them their food.”
Sydney Thatcher and Gretchen Riker, from Our Lady of the Lake explained, “Our Youth Group leader brought in two representatives to our youth group meeting who talked about it. We were interested.”
Allison and Derrick Sidoli, active in the youth group at Sparta United Methodist Church, were clear about why they were walking, “To raise money for hunger."
Blessed Kateri had a large group of young people there. Tara More, the Chief of the Squire Roses, was one of the leadership figures there. Squire Roses are a group of about forty young girls, aged 10 throough 18. She helps the girls coordinate their activities. Besides the CROP Walk, the girls also raise money for Birth Haven, do the Alzheimer’s Walk, and work in the food pantry all summer.
“We packed 100 bags a week, at the Food Pantry. Each one had 13 items, including protein, soup, tuna, extra cereal and pasta. Each family could receive one every month, or three weeks, if need be,” said More’s mom, Erica, the committee chairwoman. “Kids don’t get free lunches in summer.”
The Squire Roses are the first such girls' group in New Jersey. nother group has since formed in Fort Lee, and there have been many inquiries throughout the state.
Morgan Pimley said that becoming a Squire Rose “has opened me up to see opportunity in communities in a spiritual manner. It has helped me reach out to other people. I bring a lot of friends to different events they hold. A few of them have joined.”
Cassie Zoetjes said, “I think it’s a great community to be in. Everyone is really helpful and caring. I feel loved and welcomed in the community.”
Jack Lubertazzi and Dominick Bartolomeo co-chaired the committee of forty boys, called Squires, from Blessed Kateri. Lubertazzi alone, raised $205.00
Bartolomeo added, “Two years ago, I walked and I really wanted to do more. I’ll be a Knight (of Columbus) very soon. I am very close to getting my 'Squire Body of Chris' award; it’s the highest award with the Squires. I worked really hard on a lot of activities. My job is to support the other squires.”
Ten-year-old Sebastian Gomez explained, “I’ve been part of the Squires since February. It’s an organization for kids ten and up. It helps you get closer to church and gives you a chance to do activities to help people, like this one. The money we raise goes to help people.”
Carol Kirschenbaum said, “It feels good to be doing something physical to help, rather than just giving money. We are spreading goodness through the streets of Sparta.”
Donations will continue to be accepted until October 28, and can be sent to any of the four participating churches, clearly marked CROP Hunger Walk.