JEFFERSON CITY — Twenty-two relay runners ran the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail on Saturday in support of a Missouri veterans organization called Veterans Community Project.
Saturday was the last leg of a 5-day, 300-mile relay, called “Run Home”. The project is operated through PCVwhich was founded by veterans and aims to raise awareness and funds for Missouri veterans facing homelessness.
The relay started at Tiny House Village in Kansas City and will end on Sunday, when the last runner travels to New Tiny House Village in St. Louis.
Tiny House Village in Kansas City has 49 halfway houses furnished with full kitchens and bathrooms for veterans.
Fundraiser organizer Eric Kaseff began working on the project in May 2022. He said “Run Home” has raised $150,000 for the New Tiny House Village funds since then.
“I couldn’t have done this without the staff at VCP, without the volunteers who helped me, and especially the runners and cyclists who do this stuff. It’s no small feat,” Kaseff said. .
Kaseff began volunteering for the organization in March 2022. As an Air Force veteran, he said he wanted to learn more about veterans facing homelessness.
According the United States Census Bureauapproximately 18 million Americans, or 7% of the adult population, served in the US armed forces in 2018. Nearly 13% of the homeless population were veterans.
A US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 2020 report found about 6,527 Missourians facing homelessness, 453 of whom were veterans.
Kaseff was not just an organizer of Saturday activities. He started in the first stint from Tiny House Village in Kansas City, then he ran to Pleasant Hill, Missouri on the Rock Island Spur Trailhead, and finally made it to the Katy Trail in Windsor, Missouri.
“My favorite part was actually the race itself. I didn’t expect it to be so fun,” Kaseff said.
He said he ran a total of 27 miles in 90-degree heat and on city streets in Kansas City. He also said he made sure to take breaks and stay in shaded areas while rehydrating.
One of the runners, Teri Krueger, a 16-year-old Columbia resident, started running at 7 a.m. Saturday morning in Hartsburg, Missouri.
She said she was running because some of her family and friends are in the military and she wanted to support the cause.
“It’s something that’s dear to me, and to a lot of people,” Krueger said.
A VCP spokesperson, Kelly Seward, said New Tiny House Village in St. Louis is currently in its first phase with 20 frameworks for halfway houses.
When the first phase is completed at the end of this year, there will be 50 halfway houses identical to those in Kansas City.
There will also be a community center for all veterans to meet basic needs, such as food and hygiene products, all of which are donated by the Saint-Louis community.
Seward also said veterans can apply for tools while looking for a new job, like emergency aid and utility funds, and receive financial literacy training.
When the “Run Home” runners reach New Tiny House Village on Sunday, community members will gather and sign their names inside the frames of the house from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“We tell veterans [when they first move in]community support is within the walls of the house,” Seward said.
Kaseff said he hopes to raise $300,000 for next year’s “Run Home” relay.