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Fund-raiser to aid Waco's hungry

Nov. 12, 2004

By MEGAN HAWKINS, reporter

Mauri Rollins is doing her part in the Waco community. For the past four years, this energetic canine advocate has put all four feet forward to raise money to combat hunger.

People and pets from all over the Waco area can come together at 2 p.m. Sunday at Cameron Park's Redwood Shelter for a 5-K CROP Walk to raise money for the hungry.

"Someone made a joke that I'll be on the leash at the walk," Sharon Rollins, Mauri's owner and a family counselor with Family Counseling and Children's Services, said. "It's interesting because people are more interested in pledging money for my dog than for me."

hunger
Courtesy photo
Mauri Rollins participates in the fund-raiser each year to help Waco's poor community.
According to Katie Cook, chairwoman of the CROP Walk Steering Committee, there were fewer than 100 participants last year, but they hope to gradually grow, and they expect 50-200 walkers.

Last year $3,500 was raised, and they hope to reach at least $5,000 this year.

"There are a few student groups including CHI'S and the cross country team involved this year, so we hope to increase participation through them raising awareness," Cook said. "I'd love to get a couple of hundred people involved this year, especially students, because they just have a certain kind of energy."

The only beneficiary in the past CROP Walks was Caritas. In the past four years, steering committee members revamped the walk so the funds are spread throughout the community by alternating the cause each year.

"It's more sensational to walk for diabetes or cancer, but hunger is a growing need," Rollins said. "I work with clients every day who go hungry. People really do go hungry here in Waco."

The route goes along the river walk to the Washington Street bridge and back. Members of the McLennan County Hunger Coalition will participate in an opening ceremony led by local religious leaders and a bluegrass band will greet the walkers as they return to the Redwood Shelter. Walkers should arrive around 1:30 p.m. for registration.

Cook said if those interested can't walk, they can give pledge money to a walker. If one has no money, they can still walk.

There will be T-shirts and baseball caps on sale for $10 and a "not really bluegrass" band playing at Redwood Shelter.

25 percent of the funds this year will go to McLennan County Hunger Coalition and 75 percent will go to overseas relief programs of Church World Service.

CWS is a relief, development and refugee assistance ministry of 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations in the United States. Working in partnership with indigenous organizations in more than 80 countries, CWS works worldwide to meet human needs and foster self-reliance for those in need, according to a press release.

Since 1946, when six Protestant denominations joined their resources to respond to the humanitarian crisis in postwar Europe, CWS has operated on the principle that faith communities working in partnership can accomplish more than anyone can alone.

CWS leaders are convinced the most effective way to provide aid is to empower individuals and communities to help themselves. Because of this, CWS is a model for relief and development agencies who work with and through local agencies.

CWS and its more than 400 partner agencies around the world respond to natural and human-made disasters, provide assistance to refugees, promote improved nutrition and sanitation and help educate some of the one billion adults in the world who cannot read.

One of the ways that CWS is able to carry on their work globally is because of funds raised in CROP Walks all around the North American continent and beyond. For more information, see churchworldservice.org.

Food Insecurity in McLennan County

According to the 1990 Census, Waco was the 19th poorest city per capita in the United States. At that time, almost 30 percent of Waco's children were reported to be growing up in families below the poverty line. According to data released in Sept., the number of people in our nation living in poverty has increased by another 1.7 million.

According to the Texas Department of Health statistics for 2000, 17 percent of people in McLennan County are living in poverty, with 27.5 percent of our county's children (ages 0-17) living below the poverty line.

These statistics mean that large numbers of people in McLennan County are suffering from some kind of "food insecurity," according to the Caritas Web site. Food insecurity means a person isn't sure about where their next meal is coming from, or whether there will be a next meal.

"I see changes that have occurred over the last four years. My clients work their hearts out and yet still can't even get basic health coverage," Rollins said. "There was a family in here the other day who needed medical attention for their daughter, but they couldn't afford it."

Rollins said 25 percent of her clients don't have insurance at all and 30-50 percent must rely on some form of support including Medicaid, CHIPS insurance and local sources such as Caritas.

So many federal and state policies have changed over the past few years that its devastating for people in the lower middle class level, Rollins said. There's so many places that offer assistance in Waco, but all of this help is maxed out.

McLennan County Hunger Coalition

It's because of this reality that the McLennan County Hunger Coalition was formed earlier this year. Representatives from Caritas of Waco, The Care Center of Highland Baptist Church, Crestview Church of Christ, Greater New Light Missionary Baptist Church, Operation Crisis and The Salvation Army have been meeting to develop a coalition of the pantries in the Waco area, according to a press release. The Coalition gives the 20 local pantries a way to support each other, avoid duplication of services and help those in need.

"Hunger is an important issue. It's important to make people aware of the need to raise money for local and international hunger," Cook said.

Kenneth Moerbe, a CROP Walk steering committee member and director of Caritas, pointed out a recent shift from helping people on an emergency basis to a growing demand for supplemental help.

"It's becoming a national phenomenon because the number of poor is growing, and wherever there's poverty, there's hunger," Moerbe said.

Caritas offers aide with few required qualifications -- a need and a valid identification. On average they give out 60-80 lbs. of food to an individual at a time once a month, and daily traffic includes 75 families and up to 10 individuals, according to Moerbe.

Most donations for Caritas, come from Capital Area Food Bank in Austin. Caritas pays shared maintenance for this food supply and usually gets it for around 12 cents a pound.

"We spend a lot of time developing sources for donations, and we're open for any kind of source," Moerbe said. "We [the Coaliton] want to relate and recruit all pantries in the area because anyone can join the coalition."

MCHC strives to work up a list and get as much information as possible about surrounding pantries or places people so people in the community will be informed of the assistance available.

For more information about the CROP Walk, contact Charley Garrison at 752-5331. For more information about the McLennan County Hunger Coalition, contact Kenneth Moerbe at Caritas of Waco, 753-4593.