The Bettie Kettel 5K Run, Walk or Bike has great potential to raise more money than ever for fuel assistance.

But first and foremost, the Saturday, Nov. 7, event will be held in memory of the First Congregational Church of Durham’s beloved member, Bettie Kettel, who died unexpectedly at the age of 68 on June 7, while attending a woman’s retreat in West Gardiner.

Unlike previous fall walkathons for fuel assistance, all proceeds from registrations or pledges will go to the town heating fund, instead of a 50-50 split between that and the church.

“At our last church council meeting on the first Sunday in October, I proposed to turn it into the Bette Kettel Memorial,” said Jill Litchfield, a good friend of Kettel’s for many years. “She started it. I call it her baby.”

The Bettie Kettel 5K Run, Walk or Bike isn’t a timed race – just a fun event with a purpose, Litchfield said. It will start at 10 a.m. at the church, at 773 Royalsborough Road, and proceed to the Durham Get & Go. Everyone will make a left turn up Davis Road, turn around and head back to the church – a distance of 3.1 miles.

Litchfield said she is not charging for registration, per se. She will accept donations or pledges. People interested should call her at 650-0063 or email her at [email protected]

The fall walkathon scratched the surface of what Kettel did for her church and the community at large. She organized a series of environmental films at the church to raise awareness of environmental issues. Kettel organized a church craft fair in the spring. She served as a church deacon and sang in the choir.

Kettel was a nurse at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, where she started the hospital’s recycling program.

“She was very good about educating us in a very good way,” Litchfield said. “Bettie was the kind of person you wanted on any committee. She was always doing and she had the best hugs. That’s what I miss most about Bettie. I’ve got to tell you she pretty much ran our church, so we’ve got to ‘farm out.’”

Litchfield hopes for more involvement in the Bettie Kettel event, considering it’s a memorial for such an important member of the community.

“All the proceeds are going to the Durham fuel fund,” she said. “We got $1,000 last year, and we’re hoping to double it.”

As many things that Kettel did for the church and community, she did few of them without her husband, Charlie, alongside her. As for the 5K event, Charlie Kettel will be walking the route.

“I think it’s a very good idea,” he said. “We’ve been doing this walkathon in some description for quite a few years. I think she’d be honored with this – very much so.”

Charlie Kettel said that he and his wife loved their church.

“We went as a couple to the church probably as long as we’ve been in Durham, which is about 33 years,” he said.

Bettie Kettel, second from right, had fun with the Church Pie Team, a group of young-at-heart volunteers who made 30-plus apple pies as a fundraiser for the Church Craft Fair held this past spring at the first Congregational Church of Durham.

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