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Turkey Trot goes virtual

Runners gear up for last year’s Turkey Trot. This year’s race is virtual due to COVID-19.

Last July, Captains Andrew and Brianne Spooner arrived at the DuBois, Pa., Worship and Service Center just as the corps congregation was planning its inaugural Turkey Trot 5K race.

Organizers expected about 50 runners but were pleasantly surprised when the actual number exceeded 200.

Fast forward to 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. This time, corps members wondered, Should the popular race be held in person or virtually? The coronavirus had postponed most community events. The Spooners spent a lot of time in prayer with advisory board members before deciding to make this year’s race a virtual event.

“We didn’t want this event to crash after just one year,” Captain Andrew said. “Our attitude was, Let’s just do year two and see how it goes. Then we’ll push for year three to be even better.

“We just keep praying the Lord will bless us through this event and our kettle season. Throughout COVID, the Lord provided for our community. We just have faith that, if we keep pushing on, He’ll provide everything we need.”


Run on your own

The Turkey Trot will be held virtually throughout the month of November to kick off the local Red Kettle campaign in DuBois. The entrance fee is only $20, and racers are asked to walk or run a 5K in a location of their choice and then submit their time on the event’s website.

Captain Andrew said the glut of virtual road races hurts his efforts, but the corps is soldiering on and hoping for the best.

“I would be happy with 50 runners this year,” he said. “I know I have friends who are runners and they’re complaining about runner fatigue. They have people from all over the country inviting them to do a virtual race.

“Financially, they’re just getting tapped out, and I get that.”

The Turkey Trot already has eight local sponsors, which has been a huge help, Captain Andrew said.

“That has been a success,” he said. “A lot of these companies are hurting as well because of COVID and they’re still choosing to support our fundraiser, which kicks off our kettle season.”

Captain Andrew said the kettle campaign begins November 9 with a goal of $48,000.  The money will fund utility, rental, and food assistance. It will also provide clothing and other basic needs as well as youth and senior programming at the corps throughout the year.


Rising numbers

Like many other corps around the country, DuBois is seeing an increase in people who have lost their jobs or had their work hours cut because of COVID-19.

“Our Christmas applications are almost double from last year at this point,” Captain Andrew said. “We’re seeing a big need for help this year in our community. They come to us and that’s what we’re here for. We’ve seen a large increase of people needing help for food and then for financial assistance like utilities.

“We’ve seen a lot of new families this year and families that have never had to ask for help. It’s all because of COVID.”

DuBois, a city of about 8,000 people along Interstate 80 in western Pennsylvania, is part of The Salvation Army’s Western Pennsylvania Division. The division provided 256,054 meals and 72,118 food boxes during the first three months of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Salvation Army corps across the country are gearing up to possibly serve 155 percent more people with Christmas assistance than in 2019.


Ministry of presence

Captain Brianne urged donors to help their struggling neighbors. She reminded would-be donors that the need this year is “greater than ever” and “there is no quarantine from hunger, from homelessness or from poverty.

“Our community’s support of this year’s virtual race will continue to allow us to quickly respond to the changing needs of families and individuals facing tough times,” Captain Brianne said. “Every dollar gives hope to our neighbors in need.”

Captain Andrew said serving as a pastor during COVID-19 has brought both blessings and stress.

“It’s about, How can we be there for you? So many clients or church members have been grateful for us being there to listen,” he said. “It has really blessed a lot of people.”

During the summer’s food distribution events, Captain Andrew said he heard the concerns, fears, and stresses of the community.

“We’ve got to remind them that we’re here as a church,” he said. “We’ve got to remind them that they don’t have to fear about this, but put their trust in the Lord.

“I’m glad we’re here, but every time someone comes, it’s because some crisis is happening. That’s the difference between us and every other church. At The Salvation Army, we’re known to be there in a crisis and to adapt fast.”

by Robert Mitchell

Those interested in registering for this year’s virtual Turkey Trot can visit:


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