From Rome with love

By Geoff Lee

February 16, 2016 9:00 AM

Wayne Jeffrey is raising money for Grace United Church to sponsor a refugee family while he trains for the Rome marathon April 10. He will match donations with $10,000 of his own money. He is at the track every Wednesday at 6 p.m. to accept cheques for $26 or more for each mile of his race.

Lloydminster runner Wayne Jeffrey is training for the Rome Marathon April 10 with multiple goals in mind for himself and others.
He hopes to finish the 42.2 kilometre race in under five hours and raise as much money as possible for Grace United Church in Lloydminster to sponsor their first Syrian refugee family.
Jeffrey is seeking a minimum donation of $26 per person for every mile of the race.
He and his wife Kathy will match all donations up to a maximum of $10,000.
Jeffrey heard about the plight of refugees night after night on the news and wanted to help out.
“We’re like everybody else, you get busy you shake your head at it,” said Jeffrey.
“I just said ‘you know this is an opportunity with the marathon coming,’ and then I put out that incentive that I will match people,” he said.
He added they thought it was time to do something concrete other than just saying that’s too bad.
Jeffrey advises those who write cheques to Grace United Church to reference “Refugee Fund, Marathon Man” on them so he can keep track of the total.
Jeffrey is an electrician working for Platinum Pumpjack Services Ltd. on a contract at Imperial Oil near Cold Lake.
He lost his job at Integra Engineering in Lloydminster last March before landing his current contract in August.
“I am one of the fortunate ones so I thought to push it forward,” he said about his fundraising.
United Church Reverend Paul DuVal said what Jeffrey is doing for the community is “phenomenal,” but noted he’s not alone.
“He’s a go-getter and he’s part of a group of close friends who want to spearhead this,” he said.
“I am thrilled.”
Paul said the church’s central board just passed a motion approving the refugee sponsorship application.
The church has communicated with the United Church of Canada, which is a Citizenship and Immigration Canada sponsorship agreement holder.
Paul said his church is just kind of waiting for more information.
“We might not have been as anxious to go ahead with the sponsorship application if it hadn’t been for Wayne and his friends,” said Paul.
“We were touched by their dedication and willingness to give us a little more courage to step up.”
Paul called Jeffrey a bit of an entrepreneur for seizing the opportunity to help while training for the Rome Marathon.
Jeffrey got the idea to run Rome in November while he and his wife were planning a holiday to Italy and noted the race would take place just after their arrival.
“I decided it was a good opportunity and something to train for,” he said following his recovery from a knee injury last spring.
“I didn’t know how it would respond, but so far my long run is up to two and a half hours and no problems.”
The 57 year-old Jefffrey runs at night on icy roads in Cold Lake and at the Servus Sports Centre track on Wednesday nights when was he’s back in town.
Rome will be Jeffrey’s first marathon, but he has finished the Canadian Ironman triathlon twice and the German Ironman once.
The race will also be part of the couple’s long delayed honeymoon after getting married in 1980 at Grace United.
“We’ve been members of the church for quite awhile,” he said with a smile.
Jeffrey said his training fundraising campaign will help to offset the cost of a refugee family for up to a year in the community.
Paul said the cost for this type of private refugee sponsorship ranges from $25,000 and up depending on the number of people and the cost of living in a particular community.
“The hope is once people have learned sufficient English to get by and once they have their basic housing transportation and living needs covered, that they’ll be able to find employment and take over responsibility for their own support,” said Paul.
He said the church is probably looking at a family of three to five, but they don’t even have a match yet.
He said earlier this year the government was swamped with federal refugees so the process slowed down somewhat.
“We are in a bit of waiting mode at this moment” he said.
Paul noted the church will be setting up a refugee fund at the church soon so they can receive and receipt donations.
He also noted that 100 per cent of donated funds go into the sponsorship program with zero dollars spent on administrative fees. “Wayne and his friend have agreed to take on the lions’ share of funding for the project,”  said Paul.
He also noted Grace United Church should be fully open for all functions Feb. 23 following months of renovations.

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