Man walks to help feed needy across W.Va.

PARKERSBURG- A Kenova, W.Va., man who has pledged to raise $10,000 in each of West Virginia’s 55 counties to benefit food pantries is in Wood County “walking out hunger in West Virginia.”

Tom Knopp, director of Good Samaritan Center in Kenova, came to Parkersburg Wednesday evening. A potluck dinner was held for him at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Parkersburg, where he spoke to residents about his plans.

”I set out a goal to walk all 55 counties in West Virginia,” he said. ”Hopefully, I can walk 25 miles a day.”

In each county, he wants to raise $10,000 to meet his goal of $550,000 statewide by June 24.

The idea for the walk and the “Walking Out Hunger in West Virginia” campaign came from a need to help the two area food banks in West Virginia.

The funds he will raise in Wood County will go to the Mountaineer Food Bank, which supplies local food pantries and feeding programs, or the Wood County Emergency Food Co-op to support member pantries and feeding programs.

”When I left home Sunday, I left for 67 days on this journey,” Knopp said. ”The hope is we can draw awareness and raise money for hunger in West Virginia.”

Knopp talked about how in 1990 he was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma and was in Hospice care within three months with a bleak prognosis. He talked about praying to God and saying that no matter how much time he had left, he wanted to live in a way that glorifies the Lord.

Shortly after, he said, his “spiritual healing” began and he is now cancer free.

Since then, he had become the director of the Good Samaritan Center in Kenova, has raised $14,000 (his goal was $9,111) through donations by living on the streets in his town to bring the plight of the homeless to people’s attention, and he walked 900 miles and raised $75,000 to get a new building for the Good Samaritan Center.

”There is an even greater need now, and it reaches all across our state,” he said of people who are in need and going hungry.

High unemployment has forced many state residents to ask for help in feeding their families. The downturn in the economy has lowered the number of contributions to food banks.

He walked around Cabell County Monday, Mason County on Tuesday and Jackson County on Wednesday. He starts his walk each day at the county courthouse.

Today at 8 a.m., Knopp will speak on the steps of the Wood County Courthouse about his goals and hopes for his walk.

He will walk from the courthouse to the Julia-Ann Square Historic District. Throughout the morning he will walk along the Fifth Street Bridge, at City Park, and will pass Parkersburg High School.

In the afternoon, he will walk along Grand Central Avenue in Vienna and on to Williamstown. After covering 25 miles, his walk will end around 3:30 p.m. at the West Virginia Welcome Station in Williamstown.

He is encouraging the citizens of each county to contribute and participate in fundraising events. Churches can make a love offering and people can contribute in a variety of ways.

In his own area of Wayne County where he will end his walk on June 24, firefighters have organized a boot drive and school children are being asked to donate 25 cents, one cent for each mile he will walk.

Knopp will be in Pleasants County on Friday and Tyler County on Saturday. Next week, he will be in Wetzel, Marshall, Ohio, Brooke, Hancock and Marion counties.

He will be walking in Doddridge County on May10; in Ritchie County on May 11; Wirt County on May 13; Calhoun County on May 14; and Gilmer County on May 15. He will be walking in Roane County on June 6.

Donations can continue until the end of his campaign on June 24.

”This is quite an undertaking,” Knopp said. ”I have been touched knowing the need and I hope people will be touched by this and will contribute to help those in need.

”I have seen so many people in our state who can’t afford to feed their families. We urgently need help to prevent people from going hungry,” he said.