It wasn't really a race, and there were no winners.
Rather, the Amazing Race to End Homelessness sponsored by Family Promise of Lycoming County was held to hopefully teach participants something else.
Eight teams, each comprised of about a half dozen people, were given play money to spend on basic needs - food, shelter, transportation.
Members of the “Special K” team from the Lycoming Centre Presbyterian Church earn a few extra “Family Promise Bucks” by doing an optional “stepping stones” exercise during The Amazing Race to End Homelessness at Indian Park in Montoursville Saturday. The team building exercises were directed by LaRue Reese and Pennsylvania College of Technology. Eight teams participated in the even, each of whom were given “Family Promise Buck” to pay bills, shop for groceries, health care, and other expenses, then were able to make money by doing optional activities.
"The point is to see if they can get through a month," said Mary Ann Vance, president of the Family Promise Board of Directors.
Each of the teams represented struggling families trying to live on very tight budgets. The families visited the many booths set up in Indian Park representing different organizations. A family might visit one booth to pay rent and another one to buy groceries or yet another one to pay a utility bill.
"They are making decisions going booth to booth," said Family Promise of Lycoming County Director Melissa Magargle.
The goal was to still have money left at the end of the game.
"We call it a game of life on steroids," said Vance.
Organizations represented at the event included Americorp, Med Express, STEP, Penn State Cooperative Extension, Susquehanna Community Health & Dental, and the Vet Center, Williamsport
Many of the groups taking part in the event were hoping to educate some of the participants about what is available to them. Literature in the way of flyers and brochures could be found at the booths, each of which had representatives on hand to talk to the participants.
Magargle noted that some of the organizations at the event don't necessarily provide specific services offered during race, although there were exceptions. Families stopped by the Vet Center, Williamsport to buy discount insurance. It didn't matter if they were veterans.
June Moser, a Vet Center social worker/family therapist, said participants had a chance to learn about services offered by her organization. Vance said she and Magargle got the idea for the event while flying back from the Family Promise national conference.
"It's a fundraiser," she said. "This is the first time we've ever done it."
She noted that many people are just one paycheck away from becoming homeless. Some people find homeless to be a reality. Magargle said that beds at Lycoming County shelters for homeless people quite often are filled.
Children's games and other activities were set up as part of the event. Faith United Methodist Praise Band provided musical entertainment. Family Promise of Lycoming County empowers families to become and remain self sufficient by breaking the cycle of homelessness, provides community awareness and advocacy, and creates mission opportunities for individuals and faith based communities, according to its website.