By Alison Bitterly
This Saturday, October 16th, Red Bank will hold its 31st annual CROP Walk—a five-mile walk to raise money to combat hunger in Monmouth County, the United States, and around the world. However, this year’s fundraiser will be slightly different: the walk will be held in honor of Sue Glossbrenner, a leading volunteer who died on Memorial Day at the age of 56. Nevertheless, the Red Bank CROP Walk will uphold the three-decade-long tradition of joining together as a community to help ease the suffering of neighbors both nearby and across the planet.
The CROP Walk began in 1947 as a project intended to help rebuild Europe and feed the hungry following the devastation of World War II, with CROP standing for Christian Rural Overseas Program. To this day, the heart of CROP is the ongoing support of churches and Christian-based groups, although in recent years it has branched out to other faiths as well.
The CROP Walk in Red Bank was born in 1981. Each year, on the day of the walk volunteers bring in thousands of pounds of beans, rice, peanut butter, and other foods. Last year, the Red Bank CROP Walk raised $120,000 and a record total of 11,000 pounds of food. Despite difficult economic times in recent years, citizens of Red Bank and surrounding towns have rallied together to ensure the continued success of the fundraiser. For many years, Rumson Country Day School has lead all of the other groups in donations.
While the primary focus of the Red Bank CROP Walk is getting food provisions to those who need it most, the organization’s sphere of influence extends beyond fighting world hunger. The walk also seeks to raise awareness of those who have suffered at the hands of AIDS, genocide, and displacement. In fact, at this Sunday’s event ASLAN Youth Ministries (one of CROP Walk’s partners) will be putting up a typical refugee camp tent, as seen in Haiti and other regions, to give people an idea of the lives and struggles of others worldwide.
For Janie Schildge, 2011 marks her 26th year as Red Bank CROP Walk Coordinator. With the ability to look back and consider her past experiences with the CROP Walk, Schildge acknowledges that the fundraiser has changed and evolved somewhat over the years. Compared to the 1980s, there are a lot more events and fundraisers going on; children, especially, are constantly busy with extracurricular activities. Even so, CROP Walk has succeeded in uniting the community under a common goal.
Perhaps no one better embodied the organizational skill required to run the CROP Walk than Sue Glossbrenner, Schildge said. A volunteer from Middletown, Sue returned to the area after graduating from Mt. Holyoke in the late 1970s and immediately became involved in humanitarian activities. For almost every walk over the course of three decades, it was Sue who undertook the massive responsibility of organizing and distributing materials for the walk—and under her leadership participation in the walk has expanded greatly.
Sue was responsive and kind to all those who needed help, and she was conscientious of those struggling both at home and abroad. Her enthusiasm for the cause and her superior management skills are greatly missed by all who knew her, including those at the Red Bank CROP Walk who have been working diligently to fill the void she left.
This Sunday, volunteers will walk in Sue’s memory as they battle on against hunger and genocide, raising awareness of the ongoing issues that often seem unimaginable in these modern times. For further information, please visit redbankcropwalk.com.