By STEFAN MODRICH
Hundreds of runners took to sidewalks, parks and trails for a virtual version of the third annual OutRun Hunger 5K Family Walk and Run, raising $15,000 for East Fort Bend Human Needs Ministry (EFBHN) from Sept. 25-30.
The East Fort Bend Human Needs Ministry is a local non-profit that provides assistance to families and individuals during times of temporary financial crisis.
Stacey Williams, development director for EFBHN, knew the race would need to be different this time around due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But she and title sponsor Harvest Green, a master-planned community in Richmond, said they were determined to do whatever it took to launch a safe and successful race.
For starters, that included slashing the race entry fee from $25 to $10. The ministry ended up surpassing its goal by $5,000. In 2019, the event raised $20,000.
“We’re just trying to be cognizant of people’s financial situations right now, whether or not they’ve been laid off,” Williams said. “We tried to do that, and that really helped our cause.”
Liz Hamm and her husband, Jabus Hamm, have participated in the OutRun Hunger 5K with their daughter Skylar, 9, and their son Kai, 6 for each of the past three years.
“This year was fun because we could run on our own schedule,” Liz Hamm said. “We hope that in the future we’ll continue to have the in-person event as well as the virtual option, so if people are out of town or they can’t make the 5K (they can do it on their own).”
Hamm said she and her children wore T-shirts from the previous two races to boost awareness of the event and were proud to see neighbors completing their own virtual runs.
“We made it a point to wear our T-shirts and go out into the community over the course of several days,” Hamm said. “We always were taking selfies and the kids and I were going together. We posted on social media saying that we were looking forward to doing the run. It was fun seeing people when we were out seeing other people wearing this year’s T-shirt when the actual run was taking place virtually. It gave you a sense of connectivity even though we couldn’t be in-person and cross the finish line together.”
Hamm was one of the 33 sponsors of the race, as the publisher of Roots, a private social magazine for Harvest Green residents.
In February 2021, she plans to launch BeLOCAL, a guide for new residents of Richmond.
Hamm said her grassroots marketing efforts ended up creating a buzz in the neighborhood in a way she didn’t anticipate.
“One of the funny things that was happening was the people who had T-shirts from the past year, other people saw and were like, ‘How can I get a blue one?’ But this year’s color is orange,” Hamm said. “You have to do it every year. You’ve got to come back. It’s kind of fun to have the history of the event, and every year is a specific memory based on when people moved into the area because it is such a fast-growing community along the (Grand Parkway) corridor. It’s just a fun rite of passage to be involved with a specific event.”
Continuing to serve
During the county’s stay-at-home order, the ministry saw a spike in the number of families needing assistance. Last year, the ministry served a total of more than 44,000 adults and children.
Between mid-March and the end of May this year, Williams said it had already served half that amount and continues to serve hundreds of families each month.
Williams said the EFBHN has had to improvise with its service, holding drive-through food pantries as COVID-19 began to spread throughout the Greater Houston area in early March.
“I definitely think the sense of community was still there, and the support for Fort Bend has been tremendous through this (race),” Williams said. “I think people are seeing a definite need for what we do in East Fort Bend through financial assistance and food (donations). That’s something that we’re still giving out and there’s been a huge increase (in demand) for us with all of the layoffs and furloughs in the area.”
Going forward, Williams said the coronavirus will continue to challenge local nonprofits as they try to serve the most vulnerable in their communities, but EFBHN is up for that challenge.
In a Facebook post Monday, the ministry said it plans to open its doors for food distribution from 6-8 p.m. on the following Wednesdays:
- Oct. 14
- Oct. 28
- Nov. 11
- Dec. 2
- Dec. 16
It will also be open for distribution from 10 a.m.-noon on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Donations are accepted between 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday.