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Events start Sept. 28 leading up to CROP Walk on Oct. 13

CHINA GROVE — The next few weeks will bring a heightened awareness of hunger in the South Rowan area, culminating with the Rowan County CROP Walk on Oct. 13.
“It was big last year,” says Anne Corriher, executive director of Main Street Mission in downtown China Grove. “We want it to be bigger this year.”
Two events lead up to the walk. One is Praise as One, a contemporary praise and worship event at New Hope Presbyterian Church, 602 Stevens St., on Sept. 28 at 5 p.m. Bring your lawn chairs to this outdoor concert, which features the church’s praise bands. Visitors are also asked to bring canned goods to benefit Main Street Mission and Southside Outreach Center. The center is a ministry of Southside Church of God.
First Methodist Church in China Grove will provide refreshments, and First Baptist Church will also participate, says Carmin Byers of New Hope. “We’re all working together.”
There will be words provided for the songs so the audience can sing along, with some songs in Spanish.
“We want the event to be inclusive,” Byers adds. If anyone wants to come and sing, they are welcome, she says.
The second event before the CROP Walk is a poverty meal, set for Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. at Mount Zion Church of Christ. Corriher notes that the event is not an actual meal, but instead an opportunity to learn about poverty education and awareness, both in the community and beyond.
“What we’re concentrating on is walking in someone else’s shoes,” she says. “We will be learning about a real-life scenario that’s happened at Main Street Mission. We are going to tell someone’s story. Then small groups will discuss what the best decision to make, when there are really no good options.”
She continues, “We would like for folks to come and learn about poverty and donate money they’d spend for a night out. It’s getting fed in a different way.”
Last year, Corriher says, about 100 people attended this event, and she’d like the numbers to grow this year. Anyone is the community is invited.
Finally, CROP Walks will take place on Oct. 13 in China Grove and in Salisbury. Start time is 3 p.m. in both locations.
Nancy Yates serves as Rowan County CROP coordinator. She praises Milford Hills Methodist and First Presbyterian churches in Salisbury for their longtime leadership. As a matter of fact, the two churches have a friendly competition between who can raise the most money. The winning church receives the coveted “Golden Shoe.” Milford Hills took the shoe last year. The Salisbury CROP Walk begins at City Park.
Yates is including an educational component in the China Grove walk. Walkers will carry canned goods the first mile from First United Methodist Church to Main Street Mission. They will carry water to the next stop at Westside Community Center.
“Many people around the world walk miles for food and water,” Yates says. “Carrying something and have it be a little cumbersome is what we want people to feel.”
Yates has lived in China Grove for three years. Her husband, George, is pastor at First Methodist. But she’s been involved as a CROP Walk coordinator for 27 years. She notes that 25 percent of the money raised will stay right here in Rowan County: Salisbury’s portion to Rowan Helping Ministries and Meals on Wheels, and China Grove’s portion to Main Street Mission.
“We received several hundred dollars last year at Main Street Mission,” Corriher says.
This summer, she’s seen first-hand more than ever the effects of hunger in the community.
“Food stamps were delayed from six weeks to about three months,” she explains. “We had clients who came in who had no food at home. It just broke my heart.”
Normally, she says, Main Street Mission serves about 400 families per month. In August, the mission served 500 families.
“It’s been an unusually difficult summer for families,” she says. “The kids were out of school, too, and with the food-stamp delays, it’s been like a double whammy.”
This is the CROP Walk’s 32nd year in Rowan County. The China Grove portion took a hiatus for several years, but picked back up last year. There were 120 walkers at the 2012 walk, and Yates expects more this year.
“Don’t even think about not coming out!” she says. The same applies to Salisbury walkers.
For more information about the Rowan County CROP Walk, contact Nancy Yates of First United Methodist Church at 705-857-9713.
For more information about the praise and worship event at New Hope Presbyterian Church, contact Carmin Byers at 704-857-3211 or visit http://www.new-hope-pca.com/. For more information about the poverty meal, contact Anne Corriher at Main Street Mission at 704-855-2909 or visit http://www.mainstreetmission.org/.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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