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Veterans hosting 5K, preparing holiday baskets

POSTED: October 30, 2013 11:39 a.m.

East Liberty American Legion Post 321 will host its second annual 5K fun run/walk at 8 a.m. Saturday near the Historic Midway Church.
Post Commander Dennis Fitzgerald said that concurrent with the run, there also will be a 1K family costume fun run/walk. He said parents are encouraged to allow their kids to keep their Halloween costume until Saturday and take part. Parents also can put on their own costume, and moms pushing baby strollers are welcome to take part in the run.
“This is our second year with the 5K run,” Fitzgerald said. “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing last year. This year, there’s been a lot of planning into it. Last year, we only had 12 runners. This year, I’ll be happy if we get at least 25. I’ve learned that half of those who run don’t show up to register until the day of the race.”
Registration is $20 for the 5K run and $10 for the family costume run. Runners can register for either event by calling call 432-5723 or register at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Fitzgerald said both runs will begin and end at the Historic Midway Church near the corner of Highway 17 and Martin Road. Legion member Jason Childers said the 5K runners will go down Martin Road to Highway 84, where they will turn back up Martin Road to Butler Street.
“They’ll then take Butler Street to U.S. 84,” Childers said. “At U.S. 84, the runners will turn right and proceed to U.S. 17 where they’ll turn right again and finish at the Historic Midway Church for an overall distance of 3.1 miles. We’ll be closing one lane of U.S. 84 and U.S. 17 for the run, along with Butler Street and Martin Road. We’re working with Midway Police (Department) and the (Georgia Department of Transportation) on this. The closed lanes with be marked with cones and road barrels.”
Fitzgerald added that the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office said it will assist the Midway Police Department with traffic control. A military-police unit with Fort Stewart’s Directorate of Emergency Services also may assist with traffic control.
Funds generated from the runs will be used for a variety of Legion-supported services and programs, Fitzgerald said. These include purchasing flags for the graves of fallen veterans, emergency assistance to veterans and soldiers and the annual Veterans Day Parade and holiday food baskets given out each year to needy area families.
“These baskets include about $40-$50 worth of food, including a 12-20 pound turkey, canned goods, instant potatoes and a box dessert mix,” Fitzgerald said. “We even provide the aluminum pan to cook the turkey in.”
He said Post 321 began putting together and giving away the holiday baskets in 2006. At that time, each member of the post paid for one of 25 baskets given away. Since then, the holiday basket program has grown exponentially.
“The baskets were the first initiative taken by the post when it was formed,” he said, explaining they have several means of verifying that those receiving the baskets are those who need them most. “We had a few families we knew needed help. People still call and ask if we’re giving away the food baskets.”
Fitzgerald said his post gets support from other organizations and businesses to help pay for the baskets. He said the local Lions Club recently gave $100 for the drive, and the County Emergency Response Team is conducting food drives for the baskets Nov. 9-10. He added that Coastal Electric Membership Corporation and Walmart also contributed.
He said they hope to give away 80 food baskets this year. Any leftover food will be distributed among local churches to help replenish their food pantries.

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