(Contributed by Justin Mikecz, Pamakid member since 2009)
How did I become a Runaway Pancake—I mean—a Pamakid? There is the story that when I moved to the Bay Area my sister-in-law Susan (another byproduct of the Andy Chan-coached Lowell High School teams in the 90s) introduced me to John Gieng, who in turn introduced me to the K-Stars and Pamakids. Sure, it really helped that the K-Stars Saturday morning run and the Pamakids track workouts were both within a half mile of my apartment. However, beyond geographic convenience, there is another reason I was drawn to the Pamakids: this running club also doubled as a non-profit charitable organization.
Given my busy schedule, I loved the fact that with the Pamakid Runners I could combine my passion for community service and charity with my passion for running. It didn’t take me long to realize that the money for the club’s charitable endeavors came largely from the annual Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon. I became interested in how the club distributed all the money raised from this event to charities.
So I joined the Charity Committee. Led by Ashley Rich Rodwick and supported by John Spriggs and Tomas Palermo (with the later additions of Kelly Haston and myself), the committee solicits and reviews grant applications looking for local charities that fit in with the club’s mission “to support a healthy lifestyle.” While there is a little bit of regret when we have to turn down charitable requests, it is always rewarding to be able to say ‘yes’ to an applicant because we determined that the organization’s charitable efforts fit in with our mission and that we felt our modest donation would make a difference.
Because of the efforts of Ashley and the rest of the committee, it is quite apparent that the charitable giving process is in good hands. As a committee, though, we want to take it a step further. We’d like to make a deeper connection with these great organizations that we financially support by engaging with them and offering human resources (volunteers) as well as monetary contributions.
As a start, John S, Kelly H, and I did a test ‘run’ with one of the major beneficiaries of the San Francisco Half Marathon: Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Center. We spent an evening with other Salvation Army volunteers (including some former clients) delivering hundreds of sandwiches and performing general outreach to homeless people throughout the city. John and Kelly went to SoMa and the Civic Center while I went along with a group to the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood.
Haight/Ashbury was my neighborhood for the first 3½ years I lived in the city so it was especially eye-opening to make a connection with some of the many homeless people that I would walk or run by every day. While it would be the first time I had ever talked with some of them, I did recognize several of their faces. It was gratifying to tear down that wall we tend to defensively put up between ourselves and the downtrodden around us. The people we delivered to would often recognize us from a distance (with our Harbor Light reflective vests) as friends. If they didn’t see us at first, their faces would often perk up with a smile when we would ask the simple question, “would you like a sandwich?”
Not only would they graciously accept, many of the recipients would happily engage us in conversation. You see, the outreach efforts of Harbor Lights goes beyond delivering food. The organization’s no-strings-attached approach allowed us to connect more meaningfully with the recipients. Whether they wanted one, two, three, or zero sandwiches; whether they wanted to talk or not; and whether they wanted additional help, the idea was their wishes would be granted. The more experienced Salvation Army staff and volunteers were prepared to offer and connect people to the Salvation Army’s network of shelters and addiction counseling if needed, but nothing was forced and no judgments were given.
On the evening of Wednesday, March 20th, the Pamakid Runners Charity Committee would like to invite you to help us expand our efforts by joining us in another homeless outreach/delivery. We will meet at 7:00 pm at Salvation Army and should be done by 9:45 pm. If you’re interested in joining us or just want more information, you can email me directly or email the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. With enough interest we can set up additional dates as well so even if you can’t make it March 20th, please let us know if you would be interested in joining another time.
This is just our first step in connecting more with the charities we support so stay tuned for future outreach opportunities.
For more information go to the Pamakid Runners Club Charity Committee Page.
[Author’s Note: I am engaged and did already know that prior to Yvonne’s blog. However, I did not know about her high cholesterol!]