By LOIS KINDLE
Tens of thousands of low-income residents haven’t had to go hungry in the seven years since Calvary Lutheran Church opened its all-volunteer food pantry on College Avenue in Ruskin. Supported since then by sales from Calvary’s Angel Attic thrift store and donations from members, other area churches and the community at large, the pantry currently feeds about 2,000 people per week.
But demand is growing, and additional funding is needed to meet it, said Nan Ryan, vice chairwoman of mission teams.
Calvary is hosting its first Food on the Run 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run as part of its 50-year anniversary celebration Sept. 30 at E.G. Simmons Regional Park, 2401 19th Ave. N.W., Ruskin, to raise funds for the pantry.
“Even though we’re celebrating our 50th, the event is not about us,” said the Rev. Rob Rose, Calvary’s associate pastor. “Jesus calls us to serve others, and we want to ensure that anyone who needs a meal always has a place to turn.
“I was told by Feeding Tampa Bay that (Community Cupboard) is one of the top five food pantries in Hillsborough County,” he added.
Everyone is invited to join Food on the Run.
“We need walkers, runners, moms and dads with strollers, even people who can crawl across the finish line,” said Ryan, event coordinator. “Dogs on leashes are welcome. Just about anything goes.”
Even folks who can’t participate in the actual event can do so online, Ryan said.
“They can sign up as a virtual runner at www.racehawk.com and click on the Calvary Alive Food on the Run link,” she said. “It will take them through all the steps, and they can sit in a comfortable chair, sip their coffee, watch TV and get a certificate of completion.
“It’s a great way to donate and feel like you’re participating in the event,” Ryan said.
Sign up now.
The cost for the 5K, which begins at 8 a.m., is as follows: $25 until Sept. 23, $30 between Sept. 24 and 29 and $35 on race day. Kids ages 5 to 14 pay $20. Each 5K participant gets a soft-sided, insulated lunch bag with the Food on the Run logo.
The cost to participate in the Fun Run that follows the 5K is $15 for adults and $10 for youngsters ages 5 to 14. Virtual runners pay $25.
The festivities will include music, cheer squads to encourage participants on the course, children’s crafts and post-race food and a beverage. Several Rolling Thunder members will lead off the 5K and talk with children after the one-mile walk/run.
The 5K will be chip-timed by TRC Race Management. The fastest, overall male and fastest, overall female will receive a prize worth $35, and the top three male and female finishers in each of 10 different age groups will receive a medal.
Everyone who completes the 1-mile fun walk/run gets a finisher medal.
The Rev. Jack Palzer, Calvary Lutheran’s pastor since 1994, encourages everyone to get involved.
“People always ask me, ‘How can I help?’” he said. “This is a perfect opportunity for anyone to do so, whether they sign up for the 5K, 1-mile or virtual run.”
Palzer and Rose have a friendly competition going.
“I’m participating in the 1-mile run, he’s signed up for the 5K,” Palzer said. “Although he’s been warming up for some time now, I’m sure many more will be on my team than will be on his.”
Ryan said Palzer recently told church members and friends at a Sunday service that he wasn’t aware there was a virtual run option until after he signed up for the real thing.
“I was wondering if it was against the rules to carry him in a wheelbarrow,” Rose added. “We’re going to have a great time.”
Ryan said it presently costs about $55,000 per year for Community Cupboard to purchase discounted food from Feeding Tampa Bay. Publix provides free bread and Feeding Tampa Bay, free produce. Each family in need receives fresh produce, frozen meat, fresh bread and a bag of staples weekly.
If you’d like to help, sign up at www.racehawk.com, stop by Calvary Lutheran Church, 5309 U.S. 41 N., Apollo Beach, or register the day of the event. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.