Matthew Behrensmeyer: Running the Race of Volunteerism at the Freestore Foodbank’s Hunger Walk & 5K
Ask any runner and they’ll tell you, “When you’re in the race, it’s not always how much further you need to go that you focus on. Sometimes, especially when you start getting tired, your focus shifts from how many more miles you have left to just taking that next step, and the next one, and the next one, one right after another that will keep you moving forward until you make it to that finish line.” Matthew Behrensmeyer knows that truth all too well not only as an avid runner, but also as an amazing volunteer.
Matthew is the type of guy who is always on the run in one way or another. Going on 8 years now Mr. Behrensmeyer or Mr. B as his students affectionately call him, has been the Latin teacher at Beechwood High School teaching the young bright minds of Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. However, when he’s not in the classroom you can most likely find him out, with a pair of running shoes on, coaching the Beechwood Tiger’s cross country and track teams. However, it was his role as the faculty advisor for Beechwood’s National Honors Society that brought Matthew and his students to the Freestore Foodbank!
“You see,” Matthew explained, “as part of the National Honors Society, students are required to do at least 10 hours of volunteer work each semester.” It was this requirement that led Matthew to think of the Freestore Foodbank’s annual Hunger Walk & 5K Run back in 2016. For them, that was the first step.
Since its inception in 2004 the Freestore Foodbank’s Hunger Walk & 5K Run has helped raise more than $1,800,000 dollars (or the equivalent of 5,400,000 meals) for its community partners. The event which takes place on Memorial Day every year follows a pristine course that moves along the banks of the Ohio River through both downtown Cincinnati as well as Covington, KY by way of the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.
However, more importantly the Hunger Walk and 5K Run gives over 400 of the Freestore Foodbank’s community partners (organizations such as food pantries, soup kitchens, childcare facilities, shelters, community centers, etc.) an opportunity to raise money for their efforts. Last year alone the Hunger Walk and 5K Run raised more than $278,000 for these organizations and this year it’s expected to be even more!
“It’s really made an impact,” Matthew shares. “Not just in all of the support it’s given to these different groups, but also in how it’s impacted our students directly.” Matthew’s students have really come to enjoy volunteering at the Hunger Walk each year. This year will mark Beechwood’s students’ third year volunteering at the Hunger Walk and for many of them the excitement is already building. “In the past we’ve had students volunteer at the water stops or as course guides, but mainly they’re there to just cheer people on,” Matthew adds. “And they really go all out with it too!”
“Usually, during the race, at water stops, we’ve got students cheering folks on, ringing cowbells, music blaring, people dancing, and really just everyone having a good time! We want it to be high energy and fun to encourage the participants who are walking/running,” Matthew says. “And it does just that!”
Matthew, who actually runs in the Hunger Walk 5K each year himself (in fact, he was the overall men’s first place finisher last year), says that it’s really encouraging for those who are running or walking to have those bursts of encouragement throughout the course to keep you motivated. Speaking about himself and his students he observes, “We get to see how putting positive energy out there for everyone just makes things better!”
Through his simple act of volunteerism and his leadership, Matthew has inspired some of his students to start giving back in their own ways as well. Some work with some of the Freestore Foodbank’s other programs. Viky is a student who decided to start volunteering at The Giving Fields, the FSFB’s fresh produce farm located in Melbourne, Kentucky. Nichole is another student who took it upon herself to organize groups to go and volunteer at our Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday Operation Days in Over-the-Rhine. Other students have been inspired to organize their own volunteer projects to help give back in their own ways. “We now have students who are doing everything from working in community gardens to making homeless kits (inspired by the Freestore Foodbank’s Power Packs) to help those in need around our community. It’s really awesome to see these students coming up with their own ideas on ways that they can give back. A lot of this was spurred by their initial involvement with the Freestore Foodbank’s Hunger Walk!”
It truly is amazing how, just like in a race, each step in life, one after another, can lead you further and further down its course and at every turn you can make a choice to help others and inspire goodness in others. For Matthew Behrensmeyer and the students at Beechwood High School this has been the case.
Whether you register as a Hunger Walk participant, donate to the cause or show up to volunteer on race day, it will all help support the Freestore Foodbank’s network of over 450 partner food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and community centers.
To register for this year’s Hunger Walk & 5K Run check out http://cincinnatihungerwalk.org/2018/, or if volunteering on race day is more your speed please email our Volunteer Services Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (513) 482-7550 to sign up. Together let’s win the race against hunger!