Its been six years since Bill Pennington last ran in the Boston Marathon.

But last week Pennington made his comeback| running his 17th Patriot's Day race. This time, though, it was for a cause.

The moderator for Andover's Townwide Parent Teacher Organization, Pennington was one of 17 runners on a team raising money for Lazarus House Food Pantry in Lawrence. During last spring's flooding, Lazarus House lost nearly ten tons of food and supplies.

Dubbed "The Hunger Strikers," the group braved heavy winds and torrential rain | and all runners finished the entire race, ultimately raising nearly $80,000 for the local food pantry. Charity groups running in the Boston Marathon must raise at least $3,000.

Pennington alone raised more than $900, in spite of the fact that the marathon proved somewhat more difficult than he remembered. "It didn't go exactly as I thought it would go," Pennington said. "I'm not in the two-hour range like I used to be." He completed the race within four hours, and his son, who was along the race path to cheer him on ran the last several miles with him. Before the race, Pennington also served as the team's trainer and coach.

"I didn't start training until around January," Pennington said, adding that he found inspiration in the fact that most of his team members were amateur runners.

"The goal here was to finish and that's what we did. You're only in competition against yourself," Pennington said. "I tried to impress this upon my team."

A long-time supporter Lazarus House, Pennington's said he intends to run as a "'hunger striker" again next year.

Several familiar faces accompanied him on his trek.

Andover dermatologist Christine Anderson | a long-time runner and Lazarus House volunteer | raised more than $9,000 as a member of "The Hunger Strikers."

"She only trained for four days in April and still managed to do very well," Pennington said.

Also on Pennington's team was Peabody resident Alison Phelan | who is the administrative assistant to Superintendent Claudia Bach.

Phelan raised more than $3,000 for the soup kitchen.

The team's help couldn't come at a better time, said Lana Schofield, spokeswoman for Lazarus House. While last week's flooding didn't greatly affect Lazarus House, the impact of the May 2006 flooding continues today.

"Even though we had such wonderful people donate food, we still never recovered from last year," Schofield said, adding that the spring season typically means a decrease in donations.

With their own facility destroyed during last year's flood, donated groceries are temporarily being stored in the Good Shepherd Center, also in Lawrence.

"We're still trying to locate a building for our food pantry," Schofield said.

But thanks to the runners, Lazarus House now has an additional $80,000 to work with.

"This helps us greatly in getting through the next couple of months," Schofield said. "A lot of hungry folks will get fed."





LAZARUS HOUSE ASSISTANCE

50, 572 meals served last year.

2,000 boxes of food distributed to families during holidays.

1,800 needy people receive free clothing, furniture and more.

230 families and individuals visit the food pantry each week.

41 beds are available for homeless individuals to sleep.

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