Keith Yates, of Yelm, will be running a 100-mile footrace in Arizona with the hopes of raising funds for Yelm Prairie Christian Center’s food bank.
The race, which takes place along the Stagecoach Line in Flagstaff, Arizona, is set for Saturday, Sept. 18 and will most likely take Yates through Sunday, Sept. 19 to complete.
Yates, who is not a member of the Yelm Prairie Christian Center, ran past the organization as it was handing out food along with its weekly dinners, when he had the idea to use his talent of running to help the group.
“My idea is I feel strongly about food insecurity,” he said. “I work in affordable housing, the industry, so I see that need. With rents increasing, especially in Yelm ... families have less money to work with, and oftentimes paying rent comes before putting food on the table.”
Yates said he identified with those experiencing food insecurity on a personal level.
“At one point, I was a single father of two and my children were on free and reduced lunch, because I didn’t have the income,” he said. “So I kind of come from that side as well. I understand that challenge and that struggle and that stress placed upon the family.”
He said the overall vision of his efforts is an attempt to raise awareness within the Yelm area for nonprofits that support and strengthen the community.
He plans to devote separate runs to other worthy causes, he said, particularly the Rotary’s 10 Weeks of Summer food program in 2022.
“Oftentimes I think people want to help, and would like to help, but they don’t know how,” Yates said. “So hopefully with something like this we can draw attention to the need, and the community can support an organization that is, in turn, supporting the community.”
He said the people he knows in Yelm have strong and warm hearts, and he knows people will donate if they feel inspired by the race he is going to run.
“I’m not standing with a hat in hand,” Yates said. “I’m willing to work for it. I’m willing to run miles for it. Whether that’s of value to people or not I don’t know. But I was the first person to donate as well. I put my time into this. I put my money into it. I’m going to put my body into it.
“I’m all in on this, and hopefully it sets an example, or at least shows folks that this is something of value that we should put time and effort into,” he said.
The race will see 7,000 feet of elevation gain, and while some people may take a break to sleep, Yates doesn’t feel that compulsion, he said.
A race of this caliber takes strategy, Yates said. Runners have to figure out when to run, or when to walk or jog to conserve the energy needed to finish.
“For me, the goal is to finish,” Yates said. “I won’t win. The winner will finish in 17 hours or something, which is wild. But I’m hoping to be just under 24 hours. I’m confident in my abilities to complete that course.”
He’s been on a 21-22 week training plan where he increases mileage every day. As part of that, he went to Mount Rainier where he ran for 10,000 feet of elevation gain for a round-trip distance of 20 miles.
Ultimately, Yates said he wants to inspire others to help out, and for the members of the next generation to learn what it means to be in a community with one another.
“Hopefully this becomes something that is pervasive in our community,” he said. “Hopefully we can get some youth involved in it, and as they come up, they’ll have a sense, an understanding, a framework for community support and service.”
Yelm Prairie Christian Center’s food bank usually hands nourishment out of its building, but with COVID-19-related precautions, it is simply doling out the food at its Thursday night dinners in its parking lot. Other hand-outs are organized on the fly throughout the week when partner organizations have an overflow of food supplies that need to be put to use.
Brad Carlson, pastor of the church, said when Yates initially approached him about the idea for raising the funds, Carlson almost wrote him off as a stranger wanting to mess with the food bank.
But when Carlson realized he knew Yates’ wife, they began discussing the possibilities of the fundraiser.
“Keith saw (the food bank) and wanted to go and help our organization to raise some funds for whatever costs we incur going forward,” Carlson said. “There are some costs we’ve had to incur because of the size of the thing getting larger and larger.”
Costs include equipment and containers for food storage, as well as gas and propane costs.
“We’ve been doing this now for a year and a half, passing out food,” Carlson said. “We just did one two weeks ago. We passed out a 53-foot trailer of potato chips in three hours. They were all gone. I couldn’t believe it.”
Carlson said the organization passes out all different kinds of food, which include refrigerated, frozen, and boxed items, as well as produce and dairy.
“I don’t see it ending,” Carlson said. “The food just keeps coming in. We just want to continue to do that, so this is a way we can go ahead and get some extra funds to continue the ministry that we’re doing and utilize this 100-mile race as a way to get exposure.”
With a fundraising goal of $60,000, the church hopes to buy a large truck for food transport. Right now, it picks up food four to six times a week in a minivan.
Yates said the entire thing harkens back to the notion that great value can be found in service and community support, something he is proud to do with his ability to run.
“You may not know who’s driving through and getting some food,” Yates said. “It may be your neighbor. We do all have ups and downs. Life throws us some curveballs at different times.
“Sometimes things are great for a long time, but other times, it feels like we’re getting kicked in the shin for weeks on end,” Yates said. “Some support of an organization like this that is helping someone who’s getting kicked in the shin is a worthy cause.”
To donate, mail a check to YPCC at P.O. Box 578, Yelm, WA, 98597 or go online to gofund.me/5dbc510c.