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How this upcoming third-year event became so important for a local food pantry

The annual Fairfield Food Pantry 5K has grown in just three years to be the organization’s largest fundraiser.

This year the race is set for 9 a.m. on March 24 at Waterworks Park on Groh Lane in Fairfield, and proceeds will help the pantry serve the hundreds of people that utilize the facility each month.

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“This really helps us get over that summer hump,” said Judy Dirksen, who with her husband, Howard, opened the food pantry in 1997.

While the need for the pantry had been sporadic when it first opened, there’s been a steady and growing need since the 2008 recession. Since then, the demand hasn’t stopped.

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“This is pretty much the largest fundraiser we have,” said Dirksen. “We were thrilled the first time we had this even as it’s just generated a good deal of money to help us get over the summer months.”

The pantry serves those in need in Fairfield and Fairfield Twp., and in parts of Hamilton’s Lindenwald neighborhood and Ross Twp. Those who rely on the pantry range from senior citizens to single-parent families, and there are even those whose only housing options are living in hotels.

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The 5K run and walk is a way to help increase the pantry’s visibility, which in turn helps increase both monetary donations as well as food and personal care item donations, Dirksen said.

Wayne Kieghoff is the chairman of the 5K and said the goal is to get 200 runners, but financially he’d like to raise as much as possible to support the 10,000 people served annually.

“We don’t have a fundraising goal,” he said. “You raise however much you can get.”

Kieghoff said in the two years the race had taken place, people had enjoyed the course at Waterworks Park — and the weather has been ideal for running and walking.

“People really enjoy the park and its beautiful scenery,” he said. “We want to make it a fun time.”

People who wish to register in advance of the race for the $30 fee can do so online at FairfieldFoodPantry.org, or from 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays at the Fairfield Food Pantry.

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