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Off to the races

POSTED: March 24, 2014 7:39 p.m.
Photo by Paul Floeckher/

“Top Gear,” one of five teams from Gateway Community Church, prepares to break the tape to win the faster pastor division.

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The inaugural Family Promise of Effingham bed race brought out a cast of characters, including “Wizard of Oz”-themed entries from Faith Presbyterian Church.

To Becky Lango, the church’s outreach committee chair, it was the ideal motif for a fundraiser for Family Promise, an organization that helps homeless families.

“The ‘Wizard of Oz’ is a good theme,” she said, “because it transitions from you having devastation — when you’re homeless, it’s a devastating thing — but then there’s hope, and you have friends who lift you up and get you home.”

Participating in the bed race was such a popular idea among Faith Presbyterian’s congregation that the church entered two teams in the youth division and one in the faster pastor division — each with a different “Oz” look.

“We have been involved in homelessness (initiatives) for the past three years and felt like that was the right theme — ‘no place like home,’” she said. “We had so many people in the church wanting to get involved, we ended up with three teams.”

Gateway Community Church had a strong response as well, entering three teams in the open division and one each in youth and faster pastor. It was a great way for the church members to work together for a good cause, said Pastor Andy Lamon.

“We’re just fired up. We’re excited,” he said. “Our people have a real heart for homeless ministry, and so we’ve gotten all behind it.”

Saturday’s bed race at Effingham County High School raised $10,326.44, which will go a long way toward Family Promise of Effingham’s goal to have $50,000 in hand in order to open its doors May 1. The organization had a little more than $30,000 prior to the bed race, according to president Brian Dickey.

“It is a huge step in the right direction,” Dickey said of the amount raised. “This was a lot of fun, and it was amazing to see the community support that we had. We had hundreds of people here and raised thousands of dollars, and for the first-ever bed race event, this was just absolutely amazing.”

The bed race is symbolic of Family Promise’s efforts to help homeless families, through churches hosting them for a week at a time. The host church serves the family dinner each night and gives them a place to sleep, with Family Promise providing the beds.

Family Promise of Effingham has leased a building for its day center, secured 14 local host churches and is in the process of hiring a full-time director. Receiving money through donations and grants will be an ongoing effort.

“When we open, our work is still not done,” Dickey said, “because we have to raise the rest of the capital for the remainder of the year. We’re not relying on just donations, but the donations are going to be our primary source of income.”

Several of Family Promise’s host churches participated in the bed race. Springfield United Methodist Church’s entry was by its Maturing Disciples Sunday school class.

“We wanted to do some things that are hands-on rather than just giving money, and this is definitely hands-on,” said class teacher Harry Shearouse. “It’s a great cause, and the class just really rallied around it.”

Along with the church teams, local businesses and families also entered the bed race. Each team contributed $100 to Family Promise to participate, and money also was raised through concession stand sales and donations for the people’s choice award.

In addition, teams could “buy seconds” to give themselves a head start in a race — though that didn’t help some teams much.
“A second is not going to make a bit of difference,” Shearouse joked prior to his team’s first timed heat.

Sure enough, Springfield UMC meandered to the slowest time of the day. However, the team took home the “most creative” award for its “Duck Dynasty”-themed entry.

Besides, as Lamon pointed out, what mattered most wasn’t the team standings.

“It’s not just about winning. It’s about us making a difference for Family Promise,” he said.

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