More than 80 people took to the streets Sunday afternoon in solidarity with the hungry for the 24th annual CROP Hunger Walk.

Rev. Alden Besse, known to some as the "Energizer bunny," leads the way. He organized the first Vineyard CROP walk in 1991. — Timothy Johnson

The 6.2-mile walk began in Vineyard Haven at St. Augustine Church, and proceeded to the sounds of bagpipes down through the Five Corners intersection. From there, walkers paraded along the harbor, before climbing the drawbridge towards Oak Bluffs.

The halfway point is the Trinity Methodist church in the Oak Bluffs Camp Ground where walkers enjoyed an array of fruits and treats.

The Rev. Alden Besse, a 90-year-old minister who’s known among friends as the “Energizer bunny,” organized the first Vineyard CROP walk in 1991. He said hosting a CROP walk on Martha’s Vineyard is important because any place is in danger of becoming insular and not paying attention to the outside world.

The poverty-stricken tend to live in isolated communities, Mr. Besse added — “out of sight, out of mind.”

Tony Peak provides bagpipe accompaniment. — Timothy Johnson

Mr. Besse affiliates with the Episcopal Church, but he praises the walk because of its ecumenical tradition.

Islanders of all faiths participate. “It brings us together doing something constructive,” he said between bites of a clementine. “I’ve made some good friends over the years.”

A total of 80 people registered to walk this year, an increase from last year. Each walker wore a red CROP walk sticker, including some of the canine companions.

In all, Mr. Besse estimated that 500 people contributed to the walk in some way — baking treats, supplying water to the walkers, and helping to coordinate the event.

By Monday, the organizers had collected $14,556 in funds, though they expect that number to rise in the next few weeks.

In addition, a small group of Islanders whom Mr. Besse calls “heavenly helpers,” have pledged to match 20 per cent of the total funds raised.

Middle and high school students raised more than $1,000 for the effort. — Timothy Johnson

Many walkers were middle and high school students, who together raised more than $1,000, Mr. Besse said.

Since its inception, the Island’s CROP walk has raised more than $400,000. Most of the money goes to Church World Service, an organization which works to eradicate hunger and poverty worldwide. But some of the funds are reserved for local efforts, and in past years, the Island Food Pantry has received just under a quarter of the proceeds.

The food pantry, which opened its doors Oct. 14, served 34 people on the opening day, and 19 on the second day.

Still, people remain unaware that hunger exists in our own community, Mr. Besse said.

“We all are not as aware as we should be,” he said.