Betsy McCright, co-race director of the Grateful Gobbler, presents a check to members of the Maclellan family and staff of the Maclellan Shelter for Families. (Photo: Karlene Claridy)

Race directors from the Grateful Gobbler, a Thanksgiving walk/run, gave a $165,000 check to the Maclellan Shelter for Families late last week.

Most of the donated monies will go toward staffing and overhead costs to "keep the lights on" for Maclellan’s 24-hour-a-day operation, said Paul Luikart, Maclellan Shelter for Families director. The shelter, located on-site at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, provides 24/7 care for homeless families.

"We’re still in our infancy, and we [plan] to use some of the money ... to create programs to better serve families or explore ways we could be more efficient in our services," Luikart said. "One of our biggest needs is [to help] families find more permanent housing, and while the funding won’t go to create permanent housing, it could help [with] … research and exploration of these options and how we can track families' stability systems."

Luikart said he was thankful for the partnership between the shelter and the Grateful Gobbler. The walk has raised up to $349,000 over the past two years to assist the homeless in Chattanooga, he said.

"It’s been an awesome partnership for the Maclellan Shelter," Luikart said. "The first year was a great relationship; the second was even better. We’re really happy to partner with the Gobbler Walk."

Stan McCright, co-race director of the Grateful Gobbler with his wife, said that 100 percent of race registration fees and money from the event went to the shelter. 

"[The race] cost us $0 in overhead," McCright said. "There were no paid staff, and [it was] an all-volunteer effort to put this walk on. We couldn’t do this if it weren’t for the hundreds of volunteers and the thousands of people who walked."

He said event planners tried to implement creative ways for people to partake in the walk.

"We did some creative things to have some fun," McCright said. "We started virtual walkers—people in another state who walked to raise funds—and we had people in 38 different states walk with us. [We also] created a 'sleep walkers' category for those to stay in bed and feel good about it [while] helping to raise money for the homeless."

McCright said that 4,040 people walked in 2015, a 600-person increase from the 2014 Grateful Gobbler.

For the 2016 Grateful Gobbler, the aim is to get 5,000 people to walk, he said.

McCright and his wife, Betsy, both work in public housing, and he said that organizing an event to help the homeless is a cause close to their hearts and is a natural fit for them.