Life with Gracie: Which 5K/10K improves lives, qualifies you for AJC Peachtree Road Race?

A week from now, City of Refuge will host its fifth annual Refuge Run, a 5K and 10K trek across Atlanta's Westside that organizers hope will help improve the lives of people living on the fringes.

Every step we take on their behalf, they will be able to walk across a graduation stage; enter a job interview with confidence; buy a home or all of the above, most likely for the first time in their lives.

If you’re among those who have the luxury of taking such things for granted, if you’ve only seen people like that in news footage or the movies, count your blessings.

Not only has Bruce Deel seen them, he sees them and has spent nearly his entire life trying to help Atlanta’s poor. Men looking for jobs. Women trying to escape domestic violence or sexual abuse. Children in need of educational enrichment and mentors.

Is it any wonder Deel was named the 2018 FBI Atlanta Director’s Community Leadership Award recipient just days ago?

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When he founded the nonprofit we now know as City of Refuge in 2004, the goal was simply to provide after-school care for 20 children.

Today, the organization serves more than 1,000 people a year, providing everything from housing to health care to vocational training.

What does that look like?

A six-month housing program for women and children. A full continuum of care and support services that include medical, dental, mental health and vision services. A fully accredited private middle and high school and a wide range of vocational training programs.

“About 400 people will be trained per year and placed in full-time employment,” Deel said. “We call this a one-stop shop for anyone who has found themselves in a difficult spot in life.”

And not just for metro Atlantans.

Should you decide to run next week, you will help people in cities and communities across the country, including Baltimore, San Diego, Chicago and Cincinnati.

“In hosting this race, we hope to humanize the poverty that affects so many of our surrounding neighbors and break down the barriers that have been created over time,” Deel said. “When you participate, you are helping thousands of people take steps they never imagined possible.”

The run kicks off at 8 a.m. March 24 at the City of Refuge campus on Joseph E. Boone Boulevard, just west of the Georgia World Congress Center.

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Participants have until Tuesday to register for the run: $35 for the 5K and $45 for the 10K. If you have a tendency to procrastinate, just keep in mind that on-site registration increases $10 on the day of the race.

Either way, any funds raised from the run will provide general operating support for City of Refuge throughout the year, plus the run will qualify you for the annual Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race.

The Refuge Run is part of a series of annual events City of Refuge hosts and culminates with The Gathering, held each fall to celebrate the transformation of people’s lives and raise funds for residents and students the nonprofit serves.

According to Deel, 40 percent of all families living near City of Refuge live at or below the federal poverty level, and many more would be considered low-income. As of the latest census, 20.4 percent of adults 25 and older living in the ZIP code 30314 were unemployed.

With the help of organizations like Mercy CareFeed My Lambs, and Bright Futures Academy, Deel said they are able to not only help alleviate the workforce gap through specialized training and mentoring, they're able to provide jobs to the men and women who badly need them.

“Ninety percent of eligible unemployed women participate in the program, and 50 percent secure employment before exiting the program,” he said.

Jobs. Education. Health care.

For every step you take in next week’s Refuge Run, Deel and his army of supporters will be able to provide those things, things many of us take for granted — until we need them, of course.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.


EVENT PREVIEW

2018 Refuge Run 5K & 10K

8 a.m. March 24, 10K, $45. 8:30 a.m. March 24, 5K, $35. (On-site registration on the day of the race is $10 more.) City of Refuge, 1300 Joseph E. Boone Blvd., Atlanta. https://give.cityofrefugeatl.org/event/refuge-run-2018/e160954.