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Sanctuary 5K Celebrates Diversity With Simple Message: 'All Are Welcome'

By Linze Rice | June 15, 2017 5:26am
 A Just Harvest, a community organization in Rogers Park, is hosting the Sanctuary 5K on June 24.
A Just Harvest, a community organization in Rogers Park, is hosting the Sanctuary 5K on June 24.
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ROGERS PARK — Community organizers in Rogers Park are putting together a 5K race aimed at expressing a simple message: all are welcome.

A Just Harvest — a longstanding community organization and neighborhood kitchen "providing ongoing sanctuary from hunger, isolation, poverty and violence"— is hoping to raise $10,000 through the event, which will go back into the group's programming. 

The race kicks off at 9 a.m. June 24 at Willye B. White Park, 1610 W. Howard St., with remarks from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The race will head north along scenic Sheridan Road en route to Clark Square Park in Evanston, and then return to Rogers Park. Both walking and running are encouraged.

The fee to register is $25 per person, which includes a T-shirt. Those who wish to sponsor a runner may do so as well. 

The organization said it decided to hold the Sanctuary 5K run/walk back in January after being discouraged by anti-immigrant rhetoric in government.

"We just felt very compelled to both celebrate and defend" diversity and racial, economic and social issues, said Ken Divelbess, the race's coordinator. "We really felt compelled to make an acknowledgement that all people are welcome, celebrated, honored."

While the word "sanctuary" has been largely associated with immigration and refugees in the last year, executve director Marilyn Pag​​​án-Banks said her group's use of it refers to more than just travel bans — it also means things like having food and safe shelter. 

"We intentionally chose the theme 'sanctuary' because of the political climate right now, and because of the fact that we've always been a place that was welcoming and safe and provided a safety net to anyone who comes to our doors," she said. "We just want to lift up the importance of, not just celebrating, but defending — saying, 'We will not allow what we hold dear to be put at risk, done away with ... we won't allow our community members to be disparaged and dismissed.'"

Beyond the money raised for A Just Harvest through the event, Pag​​​án-Banks said the organization also hopes to gain new connections and volunteers who want to join in the group's overall mission. 

The non-profit has been open since 1983 and since 1990 has been operating more than 9,400 daysconsecutively, save for one day during February 2011's "snowpocolypse," which caused a pipe to freeze and burst.

With the help of volunteers, the group's community kitchen has churned out more than 1.5 million meals to those in need.