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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Fight Against Hunger Is Hitting Its Stride

Charity: Conejo Valley CROP Walk, in its 24th year, draws more than 300 participants, who raise about $35,000. It is one of seven planned in the county.

March 12, 2001|GAIL DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — Walking, biking, jogging or roller-skating, more than 300 county residents were on the move Sunday as they raised about $35,000 to fight hunger.

The parka-clad participants--most of them members of 26 churches or youth groups--completed a 6.2-mile loop under gray skies Sunday in the 24th annual Conejo Valley CROP Walk. The walk, which began at Cal Lutheran University, is one of seven taking place in the Ventura County over the next few months.

One-fourth of the proceeds from each CROP Walk benefits local charities, and the rest is used to feed the hungry in more than 70 countries, organizers said.

Since its start, the Conejo Valley CROP Walk has raised almost $140,000 for area charities. Nationwide, the walks have raised almost $2 billion.

Some of Sunday's walkers have taken part in all 24 local treks.

James and Anna Esmay of Thousand Oaks said Conejo Valley's first CROP Walk attracted a small but enthusiastic group.

In recent years, numbers have swelled as members of youth organizations use the walk to fulfill their community service requirement.

For variety one year, the Esmays, both 71, tried the loop on roller skates. Never again.

"My wife almost killed herself on some of those steep hills," James Esmay said.

This year, they walked, and even gave themselves a few minutes' head start on the 1 p.m. start time to stay ahead of the clusters of fast striders, moms with strollers and youngsters making the route on skateboards.

The couple raised almost $300 in pledges.

Others were there for the first time. Louise Bonas and her daughters, Alison, Brittlyn and Kayla, were part of a group from Ascension Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks. They trained by walking to the grocery store near their Simi Valley home.

Others used alternative forms of locomotion. Elizabeth Cook made the route in her wheelchair, pushed by friends Candy Evans and John Granda. All three came with United Church of Christ of Simi Valley.

Granda had one of the day's higher pledge totals, raising $710.

Tracy Diestel of Thousand Oaks brought her son Luke, 6, who covered the route on in-line skates.

"We've done Rollerblading, we've done the red wagon, we've done the stroller--and I was pregnant two years ago," Diestel said.

Proceeds benefit the Conejo Valley Meals on Wheels, Westlake Village Meals on Wheels, Manna, Conejo Valley Emergency Food Bank, Catholic Charities of Ventura County and Lutheran Social Services.

CROP--Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty--began in 1947 to help Midwest farmers share grain with people in post-World War II Europe. The first CROP walk was held in Bismarck, N.D., in 1969.

Last year, more than 2,000 communities held CROP Walks.

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