Providing groceries for someone in need was rewarding for Salvation Army volunteer Allie Baxter, 18, but she wanted to do more. She wanted to get more people involved with helping the poor and to show how much fun it can be.
The result is the annual Red Kettle Run, now in its fourth year. The 5K event for walkers and runners will return to Zorinsky Lake, 3808 S. 156th St., at 9 a.m. on Oct. 12. Participants need not register in advance. They simply bring at least 10 food items or $10 to donate to the Salvation Army’s food pantry.
“It’s a fun day,” Allie said. “It’s a great way to get families and people who don’t want to spend a lot to participate. Our fabulous volunteers and staff members truck food back to the pantry. Food goes directly from the race to the pantry so it satisfies an immediate need.”
Allie began volunteering with the Salvation Army when she was in grade school. She was a bell ringer for the holiday Red Kettle drives and helped her parents, Anne and Nick Baxter of Omaha, sort and stock food items for the Salvation Army’s pantry. She saw when food supplies were low and worried how to meet the needs of the poor.
“When I was younger it was fun to be involved in any way,” Allie said.
In high school, she wanted to do more. She suggested that the Salvation Army sponsor a fun run to benefit the pantry. It would be affordable and enjoyable for all ages and abilities and would have prize drawings, with donated items (such as iPods), for participants.
Allie enjoyed running on the cross country team at Millard North High School and believed there would be lots of interest in a charity race. The first Red Kettle Run in 2010 exceeded expectations, and Allie has continued to lead the event and its 60 volunteers — including her parents and her sisters, Kate and Libby.
“We hoped to get 200 people and 2,000 food donations that first year,” Allie said. “More than 400 people came, and we had more than 16,000 food items. We gave people an opportunity to help and volunteer. It was fun. It was easy and you could do a lot of good.”
In 2012 there were 875 participants, and 44,000 food items were collected.
Organizing the event had unexpected benefits for Allie.
“Working with a charity organization, with businesses, schools and volunteers is not what 15-year-olds usually get to do,” she said. “I got to do meetings with adults and be in a professional world, which was very interesting.”
This year Allie will return from Northwestern University in Chicago, where she is a freshman, to supervise the run. She enjoys it and volunteering with other charities, too.
“Volunteering has a long-lasting impact, beyond the activity itself,” Allie said. “You can see the hundreds of food items in the truck and you can see them helping people.”