An App State student drafted a mock charity event in one of her classes. Now, it’s an annual event Charlotte citizens, homeless or not, look forward to.
Katie Gregory, an App State alumna and founder of nonprofit Run Your Race, said she has served the homeless every Tuesday since she can remember. While getting to know this community throughout her life, Gregory said she wanted to enact change in one of her passions: running.
“I came up with the idea then because a lot of time in races, runners will wear a jacket up until the start to keep them warm when some of those jackets end up getting donated to shelters,” Gregory said. “It’s like, ‘this would be so fun if we did it on a multi-tide level, like (at) every mile marker.’”
Gregory said she was able to “pull the trigger” on her old middle grades education project with a network of runners and businesses. She said she originated her idea of a “strip run” from friends who may want to donate, but don’t have the fastest legs.
Strip it to Give it allows runners to enter in a Fun Run, 5K, or 8K and toss off layers of clothing in large hampers. The hampers, this year from linen company ALSCO, are washed and dried. All clothing items are then handed out to homeless neighbors and surrounding shelters.
While Gregory realizes this is a time for the community to come together and help, she said she realizes the equal, if not greater, impact it has on the homeless in her area.
“When I’m downtown on Tuesdays and I can pass them a pair of shoes that one of my guy friends gave me, I can see their smile and I can see them wear those the next few months and I can understand what a pair of shoes can do,” she said.
Ashley Shapiro, a friend of Gregory’s and fellow runner, wrote in an email that she pushed Gregory to make that classroom project a reality. She wrote that this event is a way to show how easy giving back can be.
“It demonstrates that you don’t have to do a grand gesture or donate hundreds of dollars to help your community, you can LITERALLY give them the shirt off your back, and in doing so you’re extending kindness and love while providing something of value to another,” Shapiro wrote.
Shapiro wrote that taking a stand “all boils down to awareness, compassion and education” and encouraged people to take a step out of their “bubble” to see what is really around them.
“People have been hardened by maybe one or two negative encounters with a homeless individual, and they assume every single homeless person is the same; and it’s just not true,” Shapiro wrote.
Tina Krause, director of Hospitality House, wrote in an email that while there are services for the homeless stretching across seven-county regions, people can freeze to death in the Northwest mountain counties, such as Watauga.
“Homelessness in rural areas often goes unseen, it is hidden in the wooded areas, deserted barns and trailers on the backroads. We don’t observe it every day like an urban area, where people generally reside on the streets of the city,” Krause wrote.
Krause wrote that Hospitality House is the only 24/7 shelter in the region and aims to ensure people receive any care they need.
“We are fortunate to live in a community that cares about the needs of their neighbor,” Krause wrote.