Vern Trudo: Passionate about feeding the hungry!
As I considered which stories to include in this chapter, I realized the book would not be complete without including the story of my Dad, Vern Trudo. My Dad has had a profound influence on my life, shaping my values and helping make me the man I am today.
Vern Trudo graduated from Yale University in 1949 with a degree in economics. He started his career with the Prudential Insurance Company with the enthusiasm of all new college graduates. But over time Vern felt a need deep inside that was not being met by simply earning a good living. For Vern, that need was to help make a difference in the lives of poor and hungry people. In 1959 Vern left his job with Prudential and went to work as Director of Promotion for Church World Service, a non-profit organization that provides food and assistance to community-based disaster relief efforts world-wide.
Over the next decade my Dad helped raise millions of dollars for hunger and disaster relief around the world. I can remember his many trips to countries that had been struck by famine or were dealing with a natural disaster where he documented their struggle. Dad’s commitment was strong. Each day, he drove a four-hour commute from our home in Hamden, CT to his office in New York City. Dad’s dedication to this cause stretched far beyond his work. For him, reducing starvation and poverty became his passion.
By the late 1960s, after 10 years of working for the National Council of Churches, my parents decided to make a lifestyle change and move our family to New Hampshire where Dad returned to the business world. His work changed, but his dedication to hunger, poverty and disaster relief remained steadfast. He soon became a pillar in his local church community where he championed many efforts to raise money for the poor and the hungry.
Perhaps Dad’s most noteworthy effort has been his work raising money for the CROP Walk, a six-mile walk (and fund raising initiative) that each year raises more than $16 million to help end hunger and poverty. The CROP Walk is an annual event that takes place in cities and towns all across the United States. Dad first got involved in 1994 as a fundraiser and walker. He now works tirelessly each spring to raise more money than he did the previous year, carving out time to make phone calls and knock on doors raising money.
For as many years as I can recall, Vern Trudo has single-handedly raised more money for the local CROP Walk than any other one person and become known in his community for his efforts. Someone I spoke to recently described him as “a guy you just can’t say no to.” His friendly smile, combined with his gentle question, “You do want to donate to such a good cause, don’t you?” make it impossible for most to say no to him. Another fan of my Dad described him as “a man whose dedication to his cause is contagious.”
I am proud of my Dad’s character but also proud of his accomplishments. While Dad is not a competitive person by nature, he loves to compete with himself, especially for such an important cause. “I just love seeing people come together to help,” he told me with a smile. ”As a result of our effort, fewer people will go hungry. And no one should ever go hungry.”
Dad said his most memorable walk was this past one, in 2010, because just the day before he celebrated his 85th birthday! “It took a bit longer than my other walks, but it was worth it!” he said.
I have had the pleasure of walking the six-mile CROP Walk with my Dad on a few occasions, and I hope to do it with him again. Dad brings an enthusiasm and a dedication to the experience that is hard to describe. People love walking alongside him or simply yelling “Way to go, Vern!” as he walks by. Countless people have donated, raised money and walked as a result of Vern Trudo’s passion. Through his career, his church and his community service, my Dad has dedicated a large part of his life to helping those less fortunate. He is an excellent example of how living your passion can have a huge impact on the lives of others. I know it has had an impact on mine! I am very proud to have followed in his footsteps and followed my passion as well.
Thank you, Dad.
For more information about the CROP Walk please visit www.churchworldservice.org.