Gainesville church hosting 5K run for Disaster Relief efforts, hurricane response


This Saturday, runners in a 5K race at Oakwood City Park in Oakwood will help raise funds for hurricane relief through Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief. Registration is by donation and the race has no overhead cost, meaning all proceeds go straight to hurricane relief. GETTY IMAGE

Mike Taylor knows the feeling running brings.

Sure, it's tough getting started. For a bit your lungs argue with the exertion required. Newton's first law of motion remains, and the body at rest want to stay there.

But, get the body going ...

Mike Taylor, pastor of Flat Creek Baptist Church in Gainesville, has immersed himself in the running community since taking it up in 2007 at 52 years old. Photo courtesy of Mike Taylor

That's what Taylor hopes to see, both literally and spiritually, this Saturday when Flat Creek Baptist Church in Gainesville, where he's pastor, will host a free 5K run to raise money for Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief. Specifically, funds will be directed toward ongoing hurricane relief efforts in the destructive wakes of Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

What's more, participants determine the registration fee. Yes, it's by donation. That doesn't mean this is an informal gathering of folks having to run 15 laps around the outer edge of a parking lot at some long-closed superstore, either. Timing services as well as police to ensure safety have been donated to make the event a Peachtree Qualifer, which means it can be used for those planning on taking part in next summer's Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta.

The Hurricane Hustle 5K begins at noon at Oakwood City Park, 4101 Railroad St., in Oakwood. On-site registration begins at 11 a.m., with online registration available through With zero overhead, 100 percent of the proceeds will go directly to Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief's hurricane relief efforts.

A better way to give

"I was looking at a newspaper article out of Wichita Falls, TX," explains Taylor, on what gave him the idea for the race. "In an article, people were begging for people to not send items for Hurricane Harvey relief. They were overflowing with donations and were having to pull people off the front lines to deal with it all."

It reminded Taylor of what he'd seen in Pascagoula, MS, the beginning of him and numerous other Georgia Baptists invested years into rebuilding the coastal area after Hurricane Katrina. "There was a mountain of donated clothes in a Walmart parking lot, sitting there. They stayed there in the heat and rain, rotting untiil a bulldozer finally came and scooped it up and into a landfill."

Taylor felt a more efficient way to help hurricane victims would be to partner with a respected group. Already, he knew the best one.

"I have tremendous faith in Stuart Lang and Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief to make the best use of the money," he says. "We have some participating who aren't necessarily church people, but believe in the integrity of Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief. It's exciting when you cast a net and get this kind of response, but it also speaks to the reputation of GBDR and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board."

Lang, who directs GBDR, will speak prior to the race. At that time he'll explain how the funds will help provide supplies that his contacts know first-hand are most needed in stricken areas.

Pulling together communities

Taylor projects around 100-125 runners, with donations ranging from $5 or $10 to as much as $100. He credits not just the community of runners, of which he's been a member since 2007, but people's overall desire to help.

"We knew people wanted to reach out, but couldn't get time off work or logistically make it happen to go to another state," he says. "Instead of dealing with those hurdles we decided to do a 5K.

Chris Gaunt, a member of Flat Creek, stands beside a blanket made from the Peachtree Road Race T-shirts he earned as a runner. After Gaunt was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, Mike Taylor and Flat Creek Baptist Church in Gainesville organized the Chris Gaunt Run Over Parkinson's Race. Since then, the race has raised more than $24,000 for the National Parkinson's Foundation in Gaunt's name. MIKE TAYLOR/Special

"This helps the community work together. We're excited to see how it works out."

Things are coming together. As a Peachtree Qualifier, the race becomes part of the 2017 AAA Health Series. A total of 98 awards will be handed out to men and women across various age ranges. And recently, someone donated 200 T-shirts for runners.

Taylor is excited about two worlds of his coming together. In 2007 when he was 52 years old. Taylor decided to start running for health. It became an obsession. Since then he's taken part in more than 340 timed races and run some 1,100 miles, by his estimation. In July, the Hall County Fire Services chaplain completed the Peachtree in Atlanta wearing a fireman's helmet.

Building connections

"It's a connection to a whole other community of people," he says. "As a pastor, you can get locked into your own crowd. This helps me stay in contact with people outside the church. It keeps me invigorated."

This won't be Taylor or Flat Creek's first time using a race as a fundraiser. Church members Mark and Nancy Kelley, owners of AAA Race Services donate the timing equipment like they are Saturday. Others help with logistics. It all comes together for events like this weekend's Hurricane Hustle or the Chris Gaunt Run Over Parkinson's Race, which has raised over $24,000 for the National Parkinson's Foundation.

This Saturday, Taylor asserts, runners will be introduced to a worthy partner for when disaster strikes.

"We hear from people sick of donating to organizations where a lot of money goes to overhead. When people give for this race, they'll know it's going to where it needs to be."

Gainesville, Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, running