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Turkey Trot to benefit food pantry

TORONTO — Before sitting down to a large Thanksgiving meal, area residents can get some fresh air and exercise while helping a local charity to feed many neighbors in need.

Since 2015, people of various ages have been gathering on the morning of Thanksgiving Day for the Toronto Turkey Trot, an informal walk or run along River Avenue and North Fourth Street held to raise money for the Helping Hands food pantry.

Amanda Yazbek, its organizer, said the event is very low key, with no trophies, timers or pre-registration.

Participants make a donation of their choice, though those who pay $20 are entered in a drawing for assorted gift cards and baskets donated by area businesses.

The drawing is held at the end of the event, but the names and phone numbers of participants are collected in advance in case any have to leave early to put their turkey in the oven, Yazbek said.

She said all proceeds go to the Helping Hands of Toronto food pantry, with the J.E. Foster Funeral Home matching them up to $1,000.

The course is about 3.1 miles long, extending from 408 North River Ave., where participants are to gather at about 7:40 a.m., and forms a loop from there onto North Fourth Street and back.

Anyone with questions may call Yazbek at (330) 559-3758.

She said there’s no need to close the streets, though City Police often accompany participants, and the path is flat, making for a leisurely stroll or run.

Yazbek said after moving to Toronto from Youngstown in 2013, she was looking for a way to get involved in the community and came up with the event.

Planned about two weeks in advance, the first Turkey Trot was publicized through word of mouth and drew eight people but raised $200, including the match arranged by funeral director Jay Foster.

Since then it’s grown, with 40 participants helping to raise more than $4,000 last year.

Yazbek said this year she’s very pleased that students at Toronto High School have contributed, with seven seniors there organizing a Penny War fundraiser between the school’s homerooms.

After spearheading the event for a few years, Yazbek was asked to join the food pantry’s board of directors and now serves as president of the nine-member panel.

Under the direction of Virginia Stimpert, the food pantry provides food to more than 300 local families.

“The holidays are always busier for us,” said Yazbek, who said the charity tries to provide additional food for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.

Those seeking assistance may call (740) 317-9142 for information.

Yazbek said when she was growing up, her mother, Ginny, always encouraged her to help others, setting an example by her own actions.

She said she’s happy to have the opportunity to aid others on one of her favorite holidays.

“Thanksgiving has been my favorite time of year. It’s literally just being with people you love and being thankful for them,” Yazbek said, adding she’s enjoyed coordinating the Turkey Trot.

“It’s been a ton of fun,” she said.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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