More than 300 competitors took to the trails of Cameron Run Regional Park for area charities in a 5K race organized by Alexandria-based Gifts in Kind International Saturday.
Within sight of the water park just off of Eisenhower Avenue, the mostly local slate of runners and walkers set off on a crisp, clear autumn morning for the Charity Charge. City Councilman Frank Fannon and Vice Mayor Kerry Donley were among local dignitaries present.
A portion of the $25 pre-race registration (or $30 on-site registration) could be designated for one of more than 20 local nonprofit organizations taking part in the race. Organizers hoped the event would raise awareness of Gifts in Kind, which liaises between corporations and other nonprofits for product donations, as well as other nearby charities.
We are based in Alexandria, but we are an international organization, said spokesman Colleen Clark. We sort of feel like this is home our community. If Alexandrians dont know who we are, we cant expect the rest of the country to know us. Were definitely trying to make sure the local community knows were here and interested in being engaged.
If raising the nonprofits local profile along with money for area organizations were the goals going into the 5K then President and Chief Executive Officer Cindy Hallberlin called the day a huge success.
Theres a great feeling of energy and the nonprofits all get to tell their stories, she said, walking through a tent housing several dozen local charitable and nonprofit groups. I think the services we provide are critical to charities. They cant go out and purchase supplies retail. With our help they can keep their budgets tight and do more good.
As the economic crisis forces belt tightening at every level of government, organizations like Gifts in Kind, will become increasingly important, Fannon said, still damp from the run. He finished the 5K in 28 minutes.
With the projected turnover in the federal government and a big cut in state aid, more local municipalities are going to make decision on what we can provide, he said. The federal money is going to stop flowing; state money is going to stop flowing. Thats when charity groups become more important.
Alexandria is fortunate to be home to the umbrella nonprofit group, said Fannon, chairman of the local United Way. The city is recognized as a statewide leader in giving, he said.
Seena Foster, a volunteer with Carpenters Shelter, the North Henry Street based homeless shelter, agrees. Events hosted by Gifts in Kind International, like the 5K, have given smaller groups the chance to get the word out about their mission, she said.
Its a really outstanding program that allows more people to become aware of what we do, not only just the runners, but their family members come out for this event and it does give us some notoriety, she said. Its a difficult economy and the needs we serve have increased.