Are you looking for a way to work up an appetite for the big Thanksgiving Day meal? Are you looking for a way to ensure that everyone in the community will have something to eat on Thanksgiving — and every other day?

Take part in the Run for Food on Thanksgiving morning and you can do both at once. Run or walk the 5K Bidwell Park route and you will be more than ready to have a satisfying meal later. At the same time you will know that your entry fee will benefit the Jesus Center, the community's biggest meal provider for needy people.

Michael Reale, race director, said several families who attend Bidwell Presbyterian Church put a committee together, then started a nonprofit to put on what organizers hope will be an annual fundraising event.

"We were initially expecting to get 200 entries," Reale said. "But 500 people have already signed up." He said the organization has also rounded up several corporate sponsors, who have pledged more than $20,000 to assist the Jesus Center.

Reale said because the nonprofit is run entirely by volunteers, all of the proceeds from the run will go to the Jesus Center. He said all of the administrative costs will be covered by donations.

Entry fee for the run is $25. Children under 12 can take part for free if they are accompanied by an adult. Refreshments will be served after the run. The top two male and female finishers in each age division will be recognized at an awards ceremony.

Entry forms can be picked up at Fleet Feet, 222 W. Third St.; the Jesus Center, 1297 Park Ave. or at athletic gyms in Chico. Online registration is also accepted at

Participants can register the day of the event 7-8:45 a.m. The run starts at 9. It will begin and end at One-Mile Recreation Area. For information, call Reale at 624-6932.

Reale said the event is modeled after the Run to Feed the Hungry, which is sponsored by the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Service. He said his family has taken part in that run, which is also on Thanksgiving morning. "One year, on the way home, we decided that Chico could support something like this."

"We're thrilled," said Laura Cootsona, assistant director at the Jesus Center. "A phenomenal group of people is organizing the event."

She said proceeds for the event will support all of Jesus Center's ongoing programs, including the meals it serves six days a week. "Depending on the time of the month, we serve 120 to 150 meals a day," Cootsona said. "We make no requirements about who can receive a meal. You just have to be hungry."

The Jesus Center also offers a shelter and transitional housing for women and children and an information and referral center. "Anyone can come in to the center to use telephones, receive mail, access the Internet and get job coaching. We're hoping it will attract folks who are taking the next step forward in their lives."

Cootsona said the Jesus Center will host its own fundraiser, a banquet dinner, next spring. She said the center's harvest food drive is now going on. "We'll have a spot where participants in the run can drop off canned food donations."

Staff writer Steve Brown can be reached at 896-7755 or