Hundreds on Sunday walked for miles around Rock Hill to spotlight hunger and poverty at a time many said is more critical than ever.
It's called a CROP Walk, as in Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty. For 31 years, area residents have taken part in the fundraiser, food drive and poverty awareness event. Anyone can walk; admission is free. Organizers ask those who can to donate money or canned goods.
"We walk because they walk. That's our slogan," said Barbara Thomas, an assistant regional director for Church World Service, which sponsors CROP Walks around the world.
There are places where people have to walk for miles to get water, food or medical attention, Thomas said. "It's a walk in solidarity with those who must walk," she said.
Twenty-five percent of proceeds goes to York County agencies. The rest goes to Church World Service projects. Canned goods go to local food banks.
Last year, local walkers raised nearly $36,000. Organizers are still counting this year's total.
"I definitely feel a sense of urgency this year," said organizer Narcie Jeter. "The economy is a huge thing. People who have never needed assistance before need it now."
The number of needy families locally, advocates said, is on the rise.
Pilgrim's Inn, a Rock Hill women's shelter and food pantry, has seen a more than 30 percent jump from last year in the number of hungry people seeking help.
"We just can't keep food on the shelf," said executive director Susan Dean. "It's going as fast as we get it."
Some 700 volunteers hit the pavement Sunday. Many hoofed it for all 10 kilometers. Others opted for the less strenuous "mini" walk.
Ten-year-old Erin Fitzpatrick trekked the longer route.
"My favorite part is helping people that are hungry," she said.
Mike Fitzpatrick, 40, agrees: "Just because of everything that's going on in the world, now is the perfect time to give."