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Covington First UMC hosts 5K, service project, fall festival

Participants in last year's Steeple Chase are off to a start for the 5K race.

Participants in last year's Steeple Chase are off to a start for the 5K race.

Beginning with the Steeple Chase run through downtown at 8 a.m. until the dust settles at 5 p.m., Oct. 13 will be a busy day for Covington First United Methodist Church as it hosts a community day featuring fun for families and an opportunity for service.

This will be the third year the church has held its Steeple Chase, a 1-mile and 5K run through Covington's downtown that typically has about 300 to 400 runners. Open to people of all ages, the run also draws runners from throughout the region.

The Steeple Chase is a professionally timed race by Classic Race Service and is held to raise money for local missions and for Relay for Life. The 1-mile begins at 8 a.m. followed by the 5K at 8:30 a.m. The entry fee is $18 and includes a T-shirt. Runners may also make an additional $10 donation to Relay for Life and receive a Relay for Life cap.

Children age 12 and younger will receive a ribbon for participation. First-, second- and third- place awards are presented in all the traditional age categories and an overall male and overall female award will also be given.

The Steeple Chase, which is on the list of the Run and See Georgia Race roster of races, is just the first event in a day of activities designed to serve and entertain the community while raising money for mission projects. Claudia Minge, Covington First UMC's assistant for communications and special events, is helping coordinate the day.

"While we're trying to raise funds for local missions and Relay for Life, this is also a good time to come out to be with Christian friends and spend a day with family," Minge said. "The whole event is free."

The only cost is the entry fee for those who want to run the Steeple Chase and for those who want to get a flu shot at the afternoon fall festival.

In the past, proceeds from the Steeple Chase have helped FaithWorks, the homeless shelter, Newton Medical Center, the Washington Street Community Center, the food pantry and other local mission projects, Minge said.

Following the morning run, the church will have a fall festival from 2 to 5 p.m. on the church property featuring live music on the front steps of the church and free food. Minge said the church is providing hot dogs, and Johnny's Pizza and Square Perks, as well as other vendors, will also provide food.

The festival will include games and prizes for children, a petting zoo, face painting and a community service fair.

"The whole purpose of that is to let people in Newton County know all the services and opportunities that there are in our community," Minge said, adding that civic groups such as Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions Club, along with the fire department and Newton Medical Center will be on hand for the event.

The Newton Medical Center Auxiliary will offer free blood pressure checks and car seat checks. The health department will give flu shots at a cost of $25. Minge said a clerk will be there to accept Medicaid, Medicare and some other types of insurance.

There will also be a blood drive. The American Cancer Society will be there, as will YMCA, Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society, the Christian Learning Center, Troy State University and the Council on Aging, along with several churches in the community who will share information on the ministries they provide.

The festival will also feature a book sale and an art gallery with works by local artists. Minge said there are already about 40 booths registered.

"We host it, but believe that we are a community, so it's not about Covington First that day," Minge said. "It's about our community that day."

Along with that same message, the church will again host the third annual Change the World Day on Oct. 13, in conjunction with its other events. Following the race and prior to the fall festival, volunteers from Covington First UMC, other area churches and civic groups will go to Academy Springs Park at the corner of Conyers Street and Legion Drive to do a community-wide service project.

"This year our project is partnering with the City of Covington in refurbishing Academy Springs Park," Minge said.

She said the city has prepared a master plan for the work that day and projects include building new park benches and tables, spreading new mulch, power washing, cutting shrubs and clearing any debris that needs to be removed.

"The great thing about this project is all the people who are coming together to work -- the Lion's Club, whose facility is on the property; the Boy Scouts, whose facility is also there," Minge said.

"They are all coming to work. All the churches in the community are invited and we have heard from quite a few. Their youth groups and adults are coming out that day to partner and work together on this project.

"We can still use so much more help. People can bring their rakes and wheelbarrows. The park project will start at 9 that morning. Lunch will be provided for the volunteers by our United Methodist Women."

Minge, who is the coordinator for the church's Change the World Day, said the concept evolved from the United Methodist Church and allows churches to take it to whatever level they choose. She said Covington First UMC wants it to be a community-wide event.

"We felt like if we're going to have a community race, a community festival and a community project, more people could come out and enjoy the day," she said. "We can come together to do something to benefit the community."

Any organization or church that would like to take part in the Change the World Day event is asked to call Minge at 770-786-7305. Those wishing to take part in the Steeple Chase run can register at www.covingtonfirst.org or www.classicraceservices.com.