At first it was just two people running.
But then it grew — and kept growing.
It grew so much that We Code, Too was able to facilitate its second 5K on Saturday.
About 70 people braved the chilly and windy morning to run from the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center through Charlottesville’s public and subsidized housing sites and historically African American neighborhoods.
We Code, Too was started by City Councilor Wes Bellamy to promote technology skills for African American and Latinx children and people leaving incarceration.
Proceeds from Saturday’s event will be used to purchase turkeys for needy families, a project We Code, Too has conducted for the past few holiday seasons. Turkeys will be distributed next week.
Last year, the organization passed out 250 turkeys and Bellamy set this year’s minimum at 200.
“The last two years, we’ve run out of turkeys,” Bellamy said. “The need is there. I wish we didn’t have to do the turkey drive. I wish we didn’t have to. I wish there weren’t people who needed turkeys.”
The 5K is just one event the organization uses to bring people together and raise awareness for community needs.
We Code, Too hosted a summer academy last year for children to learn coding skills and take field trips to local technology companies.
“What we’ve seen is that Charlottesvville is becoming a tech hub and that there’s just not a lot of diversity in the field,” Bellamy said.
Rory Stolzenburg, a member of the city Planning Commission, taught coding at the academy.
“They were really interested and they soaked it up really well,” he said.
Stolzenburg said tech is an accessible field that doesn’t necessarily require a four-year degree, but companies still have a hard time finding skilled workers.
“There’s never enough programmers,” he said.
Bellamy was a lead coordinator for Saturday’s event, but he wouldn’t take credit for the 5K.
The run and its route were the brainchild of Bellamy’s barber, Will Jones. The two started running as a stress relief and would participate in 5Ks, but wondered why the races never passed through historically African American neighborhoods.
Jones proposed a run through several neighborhoods and all of the city’s subsidized and public housing developments.
The two began posting about their run on Facebook and Instagram encouraging others to come out and the group expanded.
By spring, they decided to host a 5K to benefit We Code, Too. Bellamy expected maybe 25 people, but 250 showed up for the June event.
“The goal is to run through each of the public housing sites and Friendship Court just to show people you can run too. We don’t just have to play basketball or football. Jogging is important as well,” Bellamy said. “It’s important for you to be physically fit.”
The route isn’t an easy one, with several hills along the way.
“The route is hard because we just wanted to see those communities and you have to just go with the terrain,” Jones said. “This is where they placed us in the city so in order to touch all our people this is how we have to run it.”
Bellamy said as the informal group runs became more frequent, runners would be cheered along by residents and kids would join the group as it passed through their neighborhood.
“It becomes like this communal thing where they’re looking for us on these days of the week,” he said.
David Johnson joined the running group early on and said he isn’t surprised it’s growing.
“I expect it to become even bigger,” he said.
Katherine Lawrence, who moved to Charlottesville from Ohio last year, joined the running crew in May.
“It’s a really supportive group, everybody’s always cheering for each other,” she said. “It’s really inclusive.”
We Code, Too is taking donations for the turkey giveaway. To donate, visit paypal.me/wecodetoo or wecodetoocville.com.