Thanksgiving is almost upon us! Just the thought of all that rich food, endless hours of visiting with relatives and slipping into a tryptophan-fueled, football-mesmerized stupor in front of the boob tube is enough to make some of us feel slow and sluggish already. So we ought to give thanks that for over a decade now, Family of New Paltz has offered a way to start off the long holiday weekend that’s fun, absolves us of overeating guilt for the rest of the day and gives back to the needy and hungry in our community as well.
The eleventh annual New Paltz Turkey Trot 5K steps off from the Water Street Market at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, November 27, heading south on Water Street and Plains Road and returning via the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. This is a Fun Run (or Walk, if you’re not up to speed) on a non-certified course, but there are awards for male and female first-place finishers. Boy Scouts are stationed at the one-, two- and three-mile markers to let you know your time as you pass by. A water stop is set up at the approximate halfway mark, at the end of Plains Road.
There’s also a half-mile Mashed Potato Fun Run for kids, which goes both ways on the Rail Trail and sets out half an hour before the main event. Kids aged ten and under get to participate for free, and there’s plenty more to keep them entertained while the grownups are out for a run: The great kid-rock band Fuzzy Lollipop will be performing at the Water Street Market from 8:30 a.m. on, and for a one-dollar-each donation to Family, they can get their faces painted. Moxie Cupcake will be selling its delectable morsels of cakey goodness, and runners will have the opportunity to purchase photos of themselves in the race. There will also be a 50/50 raffle.
This being a charity fundraiser, adult runners and walkers pay a fee of $20 if they register prior to Thanksgiving Day, $25 if they sign up on the day of the event. Youths aged eleven to 18 pay $10 in advance, $15 on Thanksgiving morn. You can preregister online at www.active.com/new-paltz-ny/running/distance-running-races/11th-annual-family-of-new-paltz-turkey-trot-2014 or visit the Jewish Community Center between noon and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 26 to register in person and/or pick up your race packet. Last-minute registration begins at 8 a.m. at the Water Street Market on the day of the race.
As many as 1,000 runners and walkers participate in the morning’s events, if the weather is fine, and according to Family of New Paltz director Kathy Cartagena, plenty of people come back year after year. “It’s kind of a family-and-old-friends reunion site. Kids come home on school break and run into their friends,” she says. The distraction of the event is even a boon for those who are stuck home preparing Thanksgiving dinner: “So many people have all their relatives go out in the morning, and it gives them a chance to cook and concentrate.”
But of course, the best reason of all to participate in the Turkey Trot is the boost that it gives to Family’s food pantry at a time of year when demand is high and summertime donations of surplus produce from local farms and CSAs have dried up. “This is our largest fundraiser,” says Cartagena. “We’re just hoping that the weather will be good. Last year it was bitter cold.”
The food pantry is visited by 140 regular users each week, on average. Each person who signs up is allowed to visit once in 30 days, taking home enough food supplies to cook nine meals. There are also lots of walk-ins, Cartagena notes, who take advantage of the bread and other about-to-expire food items that are donated daily by local businesses.
Though the US economy is slowly improving, the staff and volunteers at Family have lately been noticing an alarming trend that hearkens back to conditions at the beginning of the Great Recession. “We’re starting to see more men coming in — the same type of people who were coming in as in 2008: Contractors, handymen, painters came in first,” said Cartagena.
So Family’s need remains high; but Cartagena has nothing but praise for the way that Paltzonians consistently turn out to support their needier neighbors, with the New Paltz Community Foundation recently raising more than $200,000 to fund interior and exterior renovation at Family’s 51 North Chestnut Street headquarters. “This community has been so generous to us,” says Cartagena. “I’m just so proud to be here in New Paltz.”
For more information about the Turkey Trot and Mashed Potato Fun Run, visit https://newpaltzturkeytrot.com. Please note that strollers are welcome to participate — provided that they start out at the back of the pack — but dogs should be left at home.