Leading local fight against hunger

Greater Greensboro CROP Walk Steering Committee Chair Gary Owens knows what it’s to like to feel hungry — that’s why he’s spent much of his life working to prevent others from feeling those familiar pangs of having to go without.

CROP Hunger Walk Steering Committee Chair Gary Owens

CROP Hunger Walk Steering Committee Chair Gary Owens

When Gary was in elementary school, his family struggled to put food on the table.

“If it wasn’t for our neighbors, we would have been really, really, really hungry,” says Gary, a retired pastor.

There was the bag of food the grocer would put on his family’s porch, the pickle jar collection into which members of the small farming community would put extra cash, and the dry goods store that would donate whatever inventory it had left over.

“That’s what local communities always did, and that’s what we’re trying to do now” with CROP walk, Gary says.

Gary’s involvement with CROP Walk began when he was just 15 years old. A regular youth fellowship participant at his church in Cincinnati, Gary helped put on the Ohio city’s CROP Walk.

After graduating from high school, Gary began what he terms his 10-year “dry spell” – the only time since he was 15 that he was not involved with the annual walk.

By his mid-twenties, he was back at it again. In fact, he helped out with the CROP Walk in all of the cities in which he was pastor.

So he found it more than a bit funny when he arrived Browns Summit to be the pastor at Monticello United Church, and they asked, “Do you know anything about the CROP Walk?

He went on to become the chairperson for the Northeast Area CROP Walk. He also volunteered for the nearby Greensboro walk of which the Northeast event is an affiliate.

Now retired and serving as the steering committee chair for the Greensboro CROP Walk, Gary says there is no image more inspiring than the one he sees at the beginning of each walk.

“As people start to walk, you look ahead and see just this mass of people – this mass of humanity,” Gary said. “All of these people are coming together to fight hunger.”

You can register to walk or donate to support a walker in the Oct. 15 event by visiting the Greater Greensboro CROP Walk website.