As a result of last year’s annual CROP Walk, a fundraiser that helps stock area food pantries, Beverly Thompson was able to purchase some $2,500 worth of necessities for disadvantaged residents of the community. With walkers once again pounding the pavement over the weekend in the fight against hunger, Thompson has her fingers crossed that the event goes well.

“Our donations are way, way down,” Thompson said of the pantry that’s run by the Howard Mohr Community Center, of which she is the director. “Donations from private individuals just aren’t coming in like they used to.”

Over the last two years funds have been drying up, said Thompson, and the charity’s savings have been cut in half as organizers continue to try and serve the needs of the less fortunate. The one-time cash infusion that came with last year’s CROP Walk was sorely needed and accounted for a sizeable chunk of the pantry’s annual budget of roughly $10,000.

“We don’t ever get that much money from one source,” Thompson said of the $2,500 donation made in 2007.

CROP, an acronym for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty, is an effort of the Church World Service and raises money for food banks both worldwide and locally. An estimated 2,000 communities are expected to participate in this year’s walk. As much as 25 percent of the pledges that participants receive will be directed to local charities, while the bulk is sent to impoverished nations across the globe.

Here in Forest Park, parishioners at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Dixon Street turn out in strong numbers each year to support the cause.

“We work hard at it,” Pastor Audree Catalano said of the church. “This is not something that we just let slide. I think so many people rally because this is a reasonable thing to do.”

Wendy Epstein oversees fundraising for West Suburban PADS, a homeless shelter that recently relocated from Forest Park to Maywood. Last year’s CROP Walk funneled $3,000 into Epstein’s meal program, and like Thompson, she says the need for such windfalls has grown. At PADS’ annual gala fundraiser held in February, Epstein said attendance was at an all-time low.

Both Epstein and Thompson said that with the economy slumping they expect things will get worse before they get better.

Postal workers to collect pantry donations

Mail carriers for the U.S. Postal Service will be collecting food for the Community Center's pantry to help feed underprivileged residents of Forest Park. Donors interested in contributing to the cause are asked to leave canned foods, dry goods and other non-perishable items by their mail boxes on Saturday, May 10.

The collection is part of a nationwide effort, Stamp Out Hunger, sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers. The local food pantry in Forest Park will receive all donations made within the village.