The American Legion Post 321 of Midway hosted the Operation Local Support 5K run on Nov. 2 to raise funds for holiday food baskets. These baskets are given out each year during Thanksgiving to needy military and community families of Liberty County. Baskets include a complete turkey dinner that can feed six to eight people. Last year, Post 321 provided baskets to about 40 needy families and plans to raise enough money to support 80 families this year.
“We are getting more and more requests for baskets every year,” said Commander Dennis Fitzgerald, who coordinated the event. “We needed to come up with more ways to raise funds so we decided to host a 5K run.”
Participation increased from just eight runners last year to 38 this year. Prizes were awarded to the fastest children and the fastest adults. In the child category, Frankie Williams finished the race first, shortly before his sister, Lydia Williams, who finished in second place.
In the adult category, Sgt. 1st Class Nathaniel Eidson, 1-88th Infantry Brigade, Fort Stewart, placed first. Roger Olsen crossed the finish line second, followed by third-place finisher Kearstin McGinnis.
“I just love running,” Eidson said. “It keeps me in shape and active.”
He said he competes in about two competitions a month.
“I like running for a good cause,” he said. “And this event is really beneficial to my soldiers and the community.”
A group of 15 runners from Snelson-Golden Middle School also participated in the run to support the cause.
“We are always about contributing to a good cause,” said Darrick Smock, an eighth-grade math teacher at Snelson-Golden.
Smock said he and his group from the school try to participate in every 5K run they hear about. They all raced in the CASA/Kiwanis “run for our future” at the end of September.
“We do it for the exercise, too,” he said. “It is important for us to say in shape and be healthy.”
Volunteers from the Liberty Coastal Lions Club also came out to support the event.
“We like helping out in the community,” Lions Club secretary Lil Shurtleff said. “Events like this get the community moving and working together for a great cause.”
Shurtleff, Lions Club member Jerry Leland and American Legion Post 321 member Jeff Bowen all handed out water at the halfway point during the race.
“Money raised from this event goes right back into the community,” Bowen said. “Events like this give people something to fun to do and benefit the community at the same time.”
Post 321 will use the race proceeds to buy turkeys at retail price from local grocery stores. These will be handed out a week before Thanksgiving.
“Everyone has fun at a 5K run,” Fitzgerald said. “It is a great opportunity for the community to get involved and support their local needy military and community families.”
Post 321 also puts flags on the graves of veterans and fallen soldiers, provides emergency assistance to military families and helps coordinate the Liberty County Veterans Day parade each year in Hinesville.
“We started the Liberty County parade five years ago,” Fitzgerald said. “We are putting it together with the Hinesville Military Affairs Committee.”
The parade is slated for 10 a.m. Saturday in Hinesville and will begin and end at Bradwell Institute.