The morning of Sunday, Oct. 15, area runners ran with one goal in mind: to support the New Lenox food pantry.
Old Plain Trail Community Bank, with locations in Mokena and New Lenox, invited people to participate in its annual Pant for the Pantry 5K.
The event was designed to collect donations and bring awareness to issues of hunger affecting area residents. A food drive ran concurrently to give the community a chance to giveback to those in need.
“I’m just blown away you guys have shown up,” said Kathie Johnson, the New Lenox Township Food Pantry’s manager. “It just shows the courageousness of your spirit to get out there and support the New Lenox Township Food Pantry, and also your own spirit to exercise and just have a great day—I know it’s hard to say [considering] this weather—but just know in your heart that you’re doing this for a wonderful, wonderful cause.”
Alex Gilmore, of Frankfort, topped the annual race this year as the No. 1 male finisher.
“It was great,” he said. “I haven’t run a 5K since freshman year in college. I did one [5K] in June, but I was really training for it.”
Gilmore coaches at Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort. There, he typically runs for practice.
“I haven’t run [a 5K]—like a serious one—in a while, and I just wanted to see what I could do,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, I’d like to do a half-marathon and then a marathon pretty soon down the road. So, this is just the first step in getting myself back into it.”
Gilmore said he never imagined that he would perform so well in this year’s race.
“I know there’s a lot of talent that shows up to these races, so I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I mean, I ran well, but also I got lucky with who showed up.”
This year’s race began and ended at Old Plank Trail Community Bank, located at 280 Veterans Parkway in New Lenox.
Over the years, the food pantry has grown to serve more people. With the work of the New Lenox Township Board, operations were moved into its current location in November 2016.
“Our numbers, unfortunately, have been slowly rising for people coming to get assistance for food and other assistance, such as the referral system,” Johnson said. “The saddest part of that is the numbers have been going up have been people [age] 60 and older. So, they’re having a difficult time. The food you donate is wonderful, [and] the money that you donate is fantastic.”
Every dollar that is contributed to the cause typically helps the food pantry in acquiring $8 worth of food from the Northern Illinois Food Bank for people to eat.
Johnson wanted to thank the residents, civic leaders and other community members for their efforts.
Mayor Tim Baldermann echoed that sentiment and went on to acknowledge those backing the race.
“They really epitomize what New Lenox is all about, and that’s about community spirit and people coming together to pull together,” he said.