Think the Oscar after-parties boasted impressive company? Vanity Fair had nothing on the local A-listers who showed up at the McDougle Middle School track this past Saturday morning for the start of the inaugural St. Paul A.M.E. Church 5K.
From Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue to N.C. State Representative Valerie Foushee, it seemed leaders in the local community of faith, politics, public relations and education are drawn to an important cause — with or without the red carpet.
Saturday’s 5K run-walk was held to raise funds and support for the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church’s vision of a multi-use and multi-generational development on northern Chapel Hill.
St. Paul Village is planned to provide amenities and resources to the local community while also serving to revitalize the historic Rogers Road.
Fittingly, it was a local dignitary — Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour — who strode across the line first Saturday with a time of 16:40. He was nearly 3 minutes ahead of the next runners — Johan Ponder (19:48.43) of Jacksonville and Baddour’s 13-year-old son, Henry Baddour (20:33.00), in third place. Baddour’s younger son, 11-year-old Jack Baddour, ended up in 13th place, giving the family much to talk about at the dinner table Saturday night.
“I had a great run,” Allen Baddour said. “I liked the course, and there’s a good downhill, but after a while going down that hill, I started thinking, ‘we’re going to have to go up at some point.’ ”
While happy with his personal best time, Henry Baddour said it would still be a while before he was ready to challenge his father for top place.
“It’ll be a couple more years,” he said. “I don’t run a lot, but this is the best time I’ve had. My best time before this was 23:00.”
Among the women, Kristi Free (23:03) finished first, just ahead of Brianna Osinski (23:24) and Chapel Hill town staffer Catherine Lazorko (23:42).
Free said she enjoyed quiet run through less-trafficked streets of Carrboro.
“I thought it was a really good course,” she said. “There weren’t too many uphills. … I definitely like running through neighborhoods; it’s much more enjoyable. I don’t like running (alongside cars), so this felt a lot safer.”
“I was trying to (keep her in sight),” Osinski said of Free. “I saw her the whole time, but I just couldn’t quite catch up to her.”
Notables who braved the cold weather included former county commissioner Moses Carey, who won the men’s 65-69 division, and Chapel Hill police chief Blue, who was the men’s 45-49 winner.Sense of community
Founded in 1864, St. Paul AME Church at the corner of Franklin Street and Merritt Mill Road has been a cornerstone of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community for nearly 150 years.
Plans for the church’s St. Paul Village would place the development on 20.4 acres at the corner of Rogers Road and Purefoy Drive, a historically African American neighborhood that dates back to the mid-1800s.
The proposed site plan, to be built in phases, includes a new worship sanctuary and 10,000-square foot fellowship hall; mixed-use senior and affordable housing; childcare, youth, and senior centers; recreational facilities; a wellness center; a health clinic; an historical museum; and a memorial garden.
While the quality of participation was certainly inspiring, event organizer Anissa McLendon said she’d initially hoped for more than the 200 participants but understood that it was a great inaugural for the race.
“The 200 we do have are all happy — that’s the main thing,” said McLendon, who also ran in the race and finished an impressive ninth among woman runners.
“I always set high expectations,” McLendon added. “I’ve run in these, but I’ve never put one on. This was from the ground up, and we’ve been working on this since last August, from sponsors for the T-shirts to making connections with Fleet Feet, plus we’ve got Chik-fil-A coming, and we had the Bouncing Bulldogs performing. Those are just a few of the connections through Chapel Hill and Carrboro.”
Cardinal Track Club co-founder Dick Forbis of Cardinal Timing Services said it was the community spirit that served the race so well.
“They just did a really good job meeting with the townspeople,” Forbis said, “because Anissa and her mom know so many people in town government, public works, police. … It’s just a good community event, it really is.”A no snow
All the hard work in the world still doesn’t quell race week nerves for organizers however.
“I was looking at the weather on Tuesday and thinking, ‘What is Saturday, what (about) Saturday?’ ” McLendon said, laughing. “I knew it was going to happen. I said, ‘Rain or snow, it will be going, as long as it’s not five inches of snow.’”
Shortly after the race, notable local luminaries spoke about the event’s vision.
“I’m grateful to be here,” Foushee, also former county commissioner, said to the crowd. “It’s because I believe this village is not just going to be an asset to the Chapel Hill / Carrboro / Orange County community, but I believe that through your kingdom building, you are building community for one of (our) most underserved communities, and for that you should be commended.”
“It’s one thing to believe this in-house,” St. Paul AME Church Pastor Thomas O. Nixon said, “but when you seen the larger community coming together to support what it is we’re envisioning…that really helps to validate what you’re doing.”
Because the church believes in tithing, 10 percent of the race’s proceeds are to be donated to community organizations other than the Village.
“We’re giving 10 percent to the Interfaith Council, who we give to every month,” McLendon said. “We also just started our fifth Habitat for Humanity house two weeks ago. Then we’ll have a Sunday service a month from now to try to help offset some more of the costs of that house.”
For more information about St. Paul Village, visit www.stpaulamechapelhill.org
or call 919-967-3961.Next time
McLendon is hoping to see substantial progress on St. Paul Village by the second staging of the race planned for March 2014.
“We’ve purchased those 20 acres on Rogers Road, and we’ve decided to do fundraising for a year-and-a-half to help pay down the cost of the land,” she explained. “We’re halfway done paying for the land now, so hopefully by next January, we’ll get that bulk down and we can start with one of two things: either the senior housing or the daycare. We’d start with those first because we want to have some income.”
Rev. Nixon said the vision is an apt one for a Christian church.
“I’ve seen that area under-served and dying,” he said, “so how better than through the Bible to come in and bring about a resurrection — to bring that area back to life. That’s what I see us doing, not just for that area, but for the whole county when everyone buys in. When it’s completed, it will be something everybody in Chapel Hill and Orange County can benefit from.”
In the meantime, McLendon said she was in need of a little revitalization herself.
“I’m just brain dead right now,” she said shortly after the race, chuckling, “but by 6:30 (tonight), I’m going to be sitting at a Krispy Kreme … trying to eat 12 hot donuts and an ice tea Snapple, because I haven’t had a donut or a birthday cake since December.”
Sheesh, what the stars will put themselves through for their walk on the red carpet.