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Get your running or walking shoes on because the virtual Lake Run is happening this Saturday and Sunday, May 1st and 2nd

PMG FILE PHOTOS - Runners pace themselves during the 2019 Lake Run. The run was canceled last year, and this year it will be held virtually. According to Kristin Barber, the director of philanthropy and resource development for Northwest Housing Alternatives, the organization's work to provide assistance for those in need is more important now than ever considering the exacerbated hardships for low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To provide help to around 3,000 families annually with assistance like affordable housing, utility relief and access to healthcare, Northwest Housing Alternatives needs funding. And it relies on community events including the upcoming Lake Oswego Lake Run to do so. While last year's event was canceled, the 44th Lake Run will be held virtually May 1-2. The typical festival associated with the run, however, won't take place this year.

A runner celebrates during the 2019 Lake Run. Though the run will be virtual this year, Northwest Housing Alternatives hopes it will still bring in a significant amount of fundraising."We're so grateful for the support out here in Lake Oswego and for the businesses that are still stepping up and sponsoring this event even though it's virtual and we're not hosting the festival," Barber said.

While the event was previously held at Millenium Park Plaza in Lake Oswego, this year participants can run anywhere and will log their 5,000 or 10,000-kilometer runs on apps like Strava or MapMyRun.

A benefit of this format, organizers said, is that it allows more flexibility as far as who can attend, when they decide to run (people can run anytime May 1-2) and where they traverse. Attendees can run the typical route but organizers stressed that they don't want to encourage sizable gatherings.

The Lake Run won't have the same communal feel this year, but it's still a chance to get some exercise and raise money for a worthy cause. The event typically attracts 1,000 participants and raises about $100,000, but organizers aren't sure what to expect this year with the virtual format.

Along with the run, this year's event will include a food drive where locals can drop off food at Safeway, Zupans, New Seasons and Benchmark Physical Therapy in Lake Oswego for seniors at the organization's affordable housing properties.

"We're hoping the community can come out and support people living in affordable housing for the food drive for those two weeks," Barber said.

According to Northwest Housing Alternatives' 2020 impact report, the organization is planning 15 affordable housing sites representing over 1,300 homes, and a total of 962 homes were both planned and funded. Additionally, 337 people were rehoused through a homeless intervention program and 153 people were provided housing at Annie Ross House, a shelter for families experiencing homelessness. It also noted that 32 families transitioned out of shelter to permanent housing last year.

"The money people are saving living in our affordable housing is something like $13 million a year on our properties as opposed to market-rate properties," Barber said.

They also help resolve disputes with landlords, preventing 99.3% of potential evictions according to the report. Last year the organization delivered over 2,200 food boxes to NHA residents and responded to over 7,000 service requests.

Barber said last year was challenging for the organization and that they had to put some residents up in hotels at times due to the difficulties associated with running a shelter during a pandemic, but government grants helped NHA stay afloat.

"Our expenses have gone up dramatically while our ability to fundraise has declined dramatically," Barber said.

The run was previously hosted by the Lake Oswego Women's Club before the group dissolved and Northwest Housing Alternatives took it over in 2018. Organizer Meghaen Anderson said keeping the run, which has been a staple in the community for decades, alive even during difficult times is important to the organization.

"That's such a long time being a community event. We want to keep it going, keep it alive as we reenter back to normal life," Anderson said.

Fore information about the run and how to register, visit lakeoswegolakerun.org.


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