Run For Shelter event nets $5K for homeless

GRAYSON - It wasn't about smoking the competition. The meaning was the point.

Just ask Sharlene Randolph and Michael Richmond - Snellville's proudest losers. The pair happily trailed the pack at Saturday's "Run For Shelter" homeless benefit because, in this context, donating was paramount to winning.

"We didn't come out because we're competitive - I think we finished last," laughed Randolph, who walked the 5K.

"Or next to last," her counterpart asserted.

Roughly 250 runners and walkers braved a blustery morning to lap the 3.2-mile path at Grayson's Tribble Mill Park, a hilly route blanketed in fall foliage. Their $20 entry fees piled up a roughly $5,000 profit that Salvation Army leaders will use to aide newly homeless families in Gwinnett.

The money should transfer at least one family - a single mother and two teenagers - from emergency housing to a permanent, fully furnished apartment by Christmas, said Capt. Bobby Westmoreland of the Salvation Army.

In the midst of economic tumult, Westmoreland said he's sheltered 23 Gwinnett families in the last week who've never applied for assistance before.

"This is very inspirational," said Westmoreland, during a medal ceremony for winners. "It really does take community heroes to pull this off."

Most credited Janet Russell, a member of Fairview Presbyterian Church, the event's sponsor, with pulling off the Run For Shelter. She hopes the cause will fan out to include housing opportunities for more families in coming years, drawing at least twice as many unselfish participants.

"I'm speechless," said Russell, eyeing the turnout. "I really get a good feeling."