Grateful Gobbler Walk 5K helps homeless families get back on their feet

Thousands of families will lace up their sneakers on Thanksgiving morning to help other families get back on their feet. (Image: WTVC)

Thousands of families will lace up their sneakers on Thanksgiving morning to help other families get back on their feet.

The Grateful Gobbler 5K is a Chattanooga tradition that benefits the Maclellan Shelter for Families.

The shelter is the only one in Chattanooga that keeps homeless families together.

For example, a mother and son can stay in the same room. Normally, they would be separated.

NewsChannel 9 spoke with single mother Tayawna Cutler about her experience at the shelter.

She became homeless over the summer, losing her house and her car in just two days.

She bought one-way bus tickets from her home in South Bend, Indiana to Chattanooga for her and her four kids.

"It was hard. I felt like I failed my children so it was scary," Cutler remembers.

Cutler stayed with family for two weeks. Then, she started looking into shelters and found the Maclellan Shelter for Families.

She says it wasn't just a place to stay: the staff prepared her for life after the shelter, helping her look for a job and a home.

"It was comforting. They didn't make you feel like they're trying to rush you out the door," said Cutler. "They want you to be stable. They don't want you to end up back in the same situation."

Theresa Biggs works as a Housing Navigator for the Chattanooga Housing Authority, a position funded by the Maclellan Foundation. She assists families with the transition to permanent housing, something that touches her on a very personal level.

"I had a situation where I had to go into hiding and so it was really hard for me. I struggled for many years to pay my rent and just keep food on the table and that was really difficult so I know so many of the challenges that these families face," said Biggs.

Biggs says there are so many families in need. That's why she's so passionate about the Grateful Gobbler, the shelter's only fundraiser of the year.

"To me, I can't sleep at night knowing that I could do something but I don't so that's why for me - this walk - it's not just a walk," said Biggs. "The shelter is why we do the walk."

Tayawna and her kids have their own place now in College Hill Courts, and she's working full time.

"As of two weeks ago, I've been promoted to a chef in the kitchen, which is my dream," said Cutler.

Even though she's hundreds of miles away from Indiana, she says after staying at the Maclellan Shelter, she doesn't feel alone.

"I've got a big new family and it's really exciting because there's no boundaries and there's no color. It's just love," said Cutler.

$200,000 was raised from the Grateful Gobbler last year.

You can still sign up for this year's race here.

If you're planning to travel out of town for the holiday or would rather sleep in on Thanksgiving, you can either register as a Virtual Walker or a Sleep Walker for $15.

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