Charity runs have become more and more popular these days, so one Florida church decided to use such an event to draw more people in from the surrounding community and tackle a global crisis all at once.
CrossRoad Church UMC, Jacksonville, held its first 5K in 2014 on Easter Sunday as a sunrise run and a way to welcome the community to the holy services of the day. “We also did it out of necessity, because we needed to raise funds as a Rise Against Hunger (formerly Stop Hunger Now) partner,” said CrossRoad GO Minister Lance Sellon.
|Participants in a 5K run at CrossRoad Church UMC, Jacksonville, enjoyed a morning run, and also were able to help with a global crisis: hunger. Race entrance fees helped pay for meals that were shipped to developing countries.|
GO is short for—Go into the world and find new ways to reach people, he said, and that is what the church is doing. Each of the three years it has held the event, 70 to 150 people have paid $25 each to participate. All funds go to purchasing meals for the hungry in foreign countries.
Funds are still being tallied, but it appears that this year’s event, held in March, will hit its target of raising enough money to provide 20,000 meals.
Rise Against Hunger representatives come to the church with huge sacks of rice, beans and other dried goods that church members and other volunteers transform into packaged meals. Up to this year, the church has provided about 150,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger recipients in developing nations.
The run and meal packaging is the carrot on the stick to get participation. But it turns out that it’s not such a difficult task, Sellon said.
Corporate sponsors kicked in along with the runners and walkers and people line up to help package meals.
“In August, everyone is invited to pack 20,000 meals before and after Sunday morning services,” Sellon said.
“Definitely, the great thing about this meal packaging is that all ages and all skill levels can participate,” he said. “We’ve seen very elderly individuals helping, and we’ve seen 3-year-olds participate. One of the inspiring things is, I have pictures of kids packing meals next to their parents and grandparents.”
The food packaging event is so popular, he said, he must limit how many are packed at one time to ensure after-church volunteers get to participate, too. “With 100 volunteers, we can pack 10,000 meals in about an hour. It goes super-fast,” Sellon said. “CrossRoad people love it.”
CrossRoad Pastor Gee Sprague signed off on the idea for a 5K partly out of pragmatism, Sellon said. “We saw how much we could raise toward paying for this Rise Against Hunger event; and like all churches, we have to be creative.
“I found out about Rise Against Hunger…in 2008 when I lived in North Carolina,” Sellon said. It is a nonprofit started in North Carolina by a retired United Methodist pastor. “Now, it has become a global organization. One of the things that made it so appealing is you actually pack the meals you pay for.”
Here are statistics provided by Rise Against Hunger, concerning the global food crisis:
792.5 million people in the world don’t get the food they need to live a healthy life.
66 million primary school-age children across the developing world attend classes hungry.
Every $1 spent on malnutrition prevention services provides a $16 economic return.
In Asia, two-thirds of the population are affected by hunger, more than any other region in the world.
If women farmers had access to the same resources as men, the number of hungry could fall by 150 million people.
One in three people are affected by malnutrition in all its forms—from wasting to obesity.
In addition to the meal program, Rise Against Hunger implements sustainable community development projects that utilize the passions of local volunteers. Its website says it strives to make a global impact on hunger by “building resilience, self-sufficiency and empowerment among the communities” it works with.
To learn more about the program, visit http://www.riseagainsthunger.org/our-impact.
--Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer based in Valrico