African music played in the background as more than 150 runners took off from the starting line in Center Moriches’ Neville Park on Saturday to help raise money for an East African orphanage.
The $3,100 raised from the Your Energy Shines race, a 5K and 10K run combined with 2.5-mile walk, will benefit an Eastport woman’s charitable efforts in Tanzania.
“One of the reasons I did this was for the charity,” said Gerhard Pagels, 57, of Sayville, who participated in the 5K. “It is nice when you can give back while participating in something you really enjoy doing.”
For the second year in a row, the non-profit Your Energy Shines chose to support the Seeds of Hope for Project Tanzania, a group formed by Deborah Mazura, a first-grade teacher at Eastport Elementary.
Seeds of Hope is a foundation started in 2006, after Mazura’s first trip to Tanzania. She traveled to the country with parishioners from her church Saints Peter and Paul in Manorville.
“Everything I’ve done since my initial trip just blossomed from there,” said Mazura, 57, of Eastport.
During her initial visit, Caritas and Alex Lengeju, a married couple involved in charitable work, showed her around the dry and desolate parts of Tanzania.
“The beauty of the people and the love they had of life through the conditions they live in is absolutely amazing,” Mazura said. “It was overwhelming. I thought to myself ‘There was so much need here.’”
Over the years, Mazura helped to build a well, fund water basins near a center for the disabled, establish a garden for fresh vegetables, repair a woman’s house and refurbish a playground in Tanzania.
It was not until her last trip in 2010 that Mazura decided to benefit an orphanage.
When she visited the site, Edgar Haule, a friend she had made in Tanzania, told her of the mismanagement of the orphanage, which led to the deaths of two children.
Between raising $2,400 at last year’s run and a $10,000 grant that she received in a lottery by St. Mark’s Church in Westhampton Beach, Mazura was able to pay for the costs of renting the orphanage and maintaining it for an entire year.
The orphanage costs roughly $1,000 a month to maintain, Mazura said, which covers the rental fee of $200 a month, and provides the 17 children living there with medication, food, beds, mosquito nets, school uniforms, school supplies, a cook and a caretaker.
Jessica Lacetera, 49, of Speonk, who helped Mazura plan the fundraisers in Neville Park, said Mazura is doing great things.
“She is amazing and she has such passion for what she does,” Lacetera said. “She has really driven this. She saw these children in need, and came back and just did something about it.”
Mary Loffredo, 19, of Old Westbury, who participated in the 5K run, said she thought the event was a great idea.
“It is a cute idea for a small town,” she said. “One of the reasons I came out today was to help raise money for such a great cause.”
Melissa Battaglia, 33, of Port Jefferson Station, and a friend who has helped Mazura in her efforts after teaching with her at Eastport Elementary, said what Mazura is doing is amazing.
“She is giving these children hope where they might not have had hope before, and opportunities they may have never had,” Battaglia said. “She goes above and beyond for them in looking to change their lives.”
Mazura says she hopes to be able to do future fundraisers with Lacetera.
“I keep putting one foot in front of the other,” Mazura said. “You never know where it will take you.”