Community hits the road in 5k to boost Assistance Center of Towson Churches

The skies were clear and the air light on Sunday, June 3, for the first ever 5K run and 1-mile walk to benefit Assistance Center of Towson Churches.

When the event kicked off on the grounds of Goucher College at 5 p.m., everyone from babies in strollers to dogs on leashes, casual walkers to runners in training hit the pavement to benefit ACTC and its outreach efforts to families in need.

"We had a good turnout," said Suzanne Boellner, a ACTC board member.

Some 250 people had registered to take part in the run, and Boellner estimated another 50 to 75 signed up at the start. John Bolster, 15, a sophomore at Towson High School, was the first to cross the finish line, clocking in at 19 minutes, 24 seconds.

He was glad to help the cause, but as runner for six years — competitively for the past three — he was not happy with the time.

"I realized I am out of shape," Bolster said. "I need to start running every day immediately, as soon as school ends on Friday."

The winning time aside, the event was quite timely for the Assistance Center of Towson Churches, a nonprofit that provides food, temporary shelter, bus tokens, clothing and more to needy families in and around Towson and throughout Baltimore County.

Founded in 1985 by 14 area churches, ACTC is now supported by more than 48 churches that raise money and help gather food and other items. Volunteers not only raise money, but also help out at the assistance center, 120 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Towson, to help keep shelves socked and organize donations. Last year, ACTC was able to assist 25,977 people.

"The upcoming summer months are always very slow for food donations, with schools closed and many people away for vacations," said Cathy Burgess, executive director of ACTC. "Unfortunately the need does not decrease in the summer months."

"Over the summer, food gets thinner," said Mical Romano, a member of the committee who helped organize the fundraiser.

"And ACTC does much more," she said, "They provide a lot of support."

Indeed, while most people think of the center as a food pantry, the services provided by ACTC include other assistance as well, including offering care bags for the homeless; financial help with fuel, utilities and prescriptions; clothing and shelter referrals; transportation to job interviews and medical appointments; and even the services of a visiting nurse practitioner from the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Sunday's race had a goal of raising money for those needs, but also went a long way in raising awareness and community spirit.

"I think this type of event symbolizes the community in Towson," said 5th District County Councilman David Marks, who was on hand to start the race. "It is just a wonderful event. I hope they do it again. I might run next year."

Allison Gerbereux didn't expect to win with her two children in tow, but the whole crew had a good time, she said.

"They did great," Gerbereux said of her co-runners. "They were in the stroller some. They would get in a little bit and ...out."

John Dahne and his dog, Dapple, had fun walking the race. "She kept up with it," Dahne said of his dog, who he described as a 'Baltimore brown.' "She walked the whole way with her tongue hanging out."

With everything donated for the event, including the usage of Goucher College to host it, all proceeds from the race will go directly to ACTC.

The final tally was not available on Sunday, but organizers expected the final amount will be in excess of $10,000. Runners were asked to pay $25 if they registered by May 25; and $35 after. Runners were also encouraged to gather pledges from family, friends and neighbors.

The race had only one real obstacle, and it was taken care of by the hosts at Goucher College — fallen branches, the result of Friday's storms, lined the path.

Julie Collier, the retired vice president and dean of students of Goucher who helped secure the fundraiser's location, visited the campus earlier in the day to go over the course. She had to go back home to get a needed tool, she said: "I went and put a broom in the car."

For more information regarding the services, needs and volunteer opportunities at the Assistance Center for Towson Churches, 120 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Towson, call 410-296-4855 or email

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