The Greater Bellingham Running Club (GBRC) is much more than just a local running group that connects runners and put on running events throughout the year. GBRC is a volunteer-driven nonprofit that’s helped build community and give back for more than four decades. One of its largest annual events, the Turkey Trot 5K, is set for November 23.

Every November hundreds of runners, joggers, and walkers of all speeds and ages cross the finish line, often dressed in festive turkey costumes, and in turn have raised thousands of dollars for the Bellingham Food Bank. The annual event is one of 11 runs hosted throughout the year by the GBRC.

What makes this particular race unique, besides the runners in inflatable turkey costumes, is that all of the net proceeds from the run go directly to benefit the Food Bank. This yearly donation helps feed the 1 in 5 Whatcom County households that use the Food Bank’s services, according to Kristin Costanza, communications coordinator for the Food Bank.

Runners of all ages get in the festive spirit for the 5K by dressing up like turkeys—or even a T-Rex. Photo credit: Ali Raetz

The Turkey Trot funds are used to support the Food Bank during Thanksgiving, their busiest season of the year, but also provide them with the stability to plan beyond November’s critical time. Whether it’s going straight into a food purchase, supporting a new program, or making necessary improvements to their truck, the donation allows the Food Bank to react to opportunities and needs as they come along, says Costanza.

Last year’s Turkey Trot donated $9,660 through race fees and donations from the 414 race finishers and a generous $4,000 donation from First Federal. In addition to race fees, Costanza says that a lot of the money that came in was from donations contributed either on race day or through the option to add a donation with online registration. “What was amazing was that it was $5 and $10 at a time from mostly individual community members who were showing up to do their part,” she says.

Through race fees, additional donations and a generous donation from First Federal, last year’s Turkey Trot raised $9,660. Photo credit: Ali Raetz

GBRC’s mission statement is “Connecting Runners, Building Community, Giving Back.” Over the last two years, under the leadership of new club president Larry Lober, there’s been an extra emphasis on the “giving back” portion of this mission. One of Lober’s goals, he says, was to cut back on the overall cost of putting on a run, keeping them accessible for everyone to participate and giving back even more to our community.

“A lot of [our] events are low-cost, sometimes nearly half of what the same event would cost otherwise,” Lober says. Six out of the eleven runs that the GBRC hosts each year are free to members and members receive discounted registration prices for the other events. Annual membership prices range from $10 for a youth membership (18 and under), $35 for a single adult runner, and $60 for the whole family.

The Turkey Trot is one of 11 runs hosted throughout the year by the GBRC. Photo credit: Ali Raetz

The GBRC not only connects runners and builds community within itself, but it also connects the community to opportunities and resources such as the Food Bank. Costanza says the Turkey Trot generates volunteers for the Food Bank every year and also brings in new clients to use the variety of services and avenues of assistance they provide.

The running club was first founded in 1976 by a group of local runners in conjunction with the Bellingham Recreation Department. The club has grown significantly since then, when putting on a race was as simple as going out, drawing a line, and inviting people to come run, says Lober.

One runner at the Turkey Trot shows there’s nothing quite like the feeling of completing a race and knowing pumpkin pie awaits at the end. Photo credit: Ali Raetz

The GBRC has built strong partnerships that align with their mission. Downtown Bellingham shoe store BBay Running is a longstanding partner. At GBRC events, BBay Running collects worn shoes from runners that can either be reused and resold, or recycled and used for track and playground surfaces. The GBRC also makes annual donations to Girls on the Run and Trailblazers, two youth running clubs in Whatcom County.

The GBRC receives a donation of its own every summer from Haggen and its annual Haggen to Haggen 5K Fun Run. Proceeds go toward two $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors and $1,000 worth of BBay Running and Fairhaven Runners shoe vouchers to high school students nominated from their cross-country coaches.

Online registration is now open for the 2019 Turkey Trot on November 23 at Squalicum Creek Park. Kids age 12 and younger are free, strollers are welcome, and adult race fees are all $20 and under. More information and registration is available at https://www.gbrc.net/races/turkey-trot/.

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