Visalia campus helps town’s annual Race Against Hunger make great strides
The first Race Against Hunger took place in Visalia 14 years ago with 250 participants determined to raise enough money to stock a food bank and help those in need. This year, over 5,300 participants either ran the 5K or took the 2-mile walk that allowed those who preferred to amble, along with more than a few dogs of all sizes, a little more leisurely pace. There was also a special Children Helping Children’s kids race of a quarter mile introduced to promote children’s health, fitness and fun.
Justin Reynolds, a Registered Nursing program student on SJVC’s Visalia campus volunteered to be “Tom the Turkey” that day and led the children down the raceway for their event. All the kids who were in the race received a medal.
The Visalia campus has been a strong supporter of the annual race and its organizer and beneficiary, Visalia Emergency Aid Council Food Pantry, since the race’s inception. “This has a real soft spot in my heart because I see all the good it does,” says Monica Urmson, SJVC’s Administrative Assistant to the Registered Nursing program. “You don’t realize the magnitude of children who go hungry every day.”
Monica was co-chair of all the volunteers for this event, and Brenda Serpa, SJVC Visalia’s Dental Hygiene Program Director, is the organizer in charge of registration. Lori Jeffcoach, SJVC’s CPR instructor, oversaw walker registration. More than 40 SJVC staff, faculty, students, and their families and friends volunteered to help make the day a huge success.
“Humbly being in service to others brings out the best of oneself,” says Maria Knapp, Registered Nursing program student and race volunteer. “Collaborating with other teams of volunteers and experiencing the synergy is priceless! It is my personal mission to not only continue to volunteer in local community outreach projects but continue to create awareness so that others may enjoy the blessing of volunteering as well.”
In addition to volunteering on race day, SJVC’s faculty and staff held a Dress-down Day on campus and raised and donated $200 to the pantry. A campus community joined the larger community for the greater good of all.
Plus, it was a lot of fun. The Kid Zone had a bounce house and face-painting, while a local DJ supplied the music. It was a festive time for all. Even the dogs got red carpet treatment. “We had poop bags for the dogs and water stations were marked along the trail,” says Monica. “And many dogs wore reindeer antlers!”
Not only was the race/walk a great occasion for the community to enjoy, the entry fees and donations from that single day carry most of the Emergency Aid pantry’s annual operation and food expenses.
That makes for plenty of feel-good to go around.
“It was a great feeling, helping in any way that I could and for such a great cause,” says Kylie Slimp, Registered Nursing program student. “Community service is a VERY important aspect of the nursing career, education and training. It helps us to get to know those in our community and is a perfect opportunity to spread health education.”
Founded in 1931, the Emergency Aid pantry has helped many thousands of those in the community who struggle to feed their families. “You see the results right in front of you,” says Monica. “When I’m there dropping off donations, there are people waiting in line, while others are walking out with a bag of whatever the pantry has at the time: Fruit, vegetables, canned goods. I saw a little girl carrying a bag of oranges to the car, smiling like she’d just gotten a bike.”
The pantry’s doors are open to share their bounty, large or small, with those in need. “Farmers donate oranges, lemons; whatever they have,” says Monica. “I’ve seen their pantry with very few things on the shelf…maybe a few cases of peanut butter. Then, there’s a big push that goes out to service clubs, local grocery stores; there’s a community network set up for dire situations.”
The pantry and their dedicated staff always pull through and continue to serve an average of 1,000 households each month.
As much as the Race Against Hunger provided needed funds to stock the pantry’s shelves, it is also a time for the community to come together in support of others.
“The highlight of the event was, for me, seeing the joy of each participant as they picked up their packets and bibs,” says Maria Knapp. “Seeing so many participants and their families enjoying the fun, while contributing to such a wonderful cause is simply grace in action.”