Monday, June 18, 2012

RunningWorks Impacts Charlotte

It’s 9:45am on Tuesday morning and the group is starting to line-up outside the Art Building at the Urban Ministry Center in Downtown Charlotte off College St. What was once a small group of 5-6 runners has grown to well over a dozen men and women coined “neighbors.” This reforming establishment is on the frontlines of poverty and embodies a mission statement of an interfaith organization dedicated to bringing the community together to end homelessness, one life at a time.

But why are they lined up outside the Art Building at a quarter to 10am?

Recently they have grown accustomed to meeting Kelly, Meredith, Justin, Michael, and Kristen every Tuesday and Friday to enjoy a 3-4 mile run through the streets of downtown Charlotte. This project is called RunningWorks.

The brainchild of Meredith Dolhare & Kelly Fillnow, RunningWorks is a non-profit running program founded to encourage the homeless community to rediscover the power of teamwork, discipline, confidence and respect for each other one stride at a time.

Some participants claim it has been over 20 years since they have run and others boldly state they have never given running a second thought.

Yet, after some preparation and a fresh change of clothes including donated shoes and branded technical running shirts with the RunningWorks logo they now feel like a part of team, a club, they now belong to something greater than themselves. Simply put, they are smiling.

All 15 of us line up outside the Art Building and begin to stretch and joke around a bit before we begin our jaunt thru the Queen City streets right before lunchtime. Some group together at a faster pace while others enjoy a pace of their own but one thing is consistent, camaraderie. At each intersection while waiting on the light to change, there is a mini-meeting to share something positive about their life. “Hello my name is Chuck and I am just happy to have a job interview this week.” Or, “Hi, I’m Ron and I am really grateful for you all organizing this group.”

No longer are they stereotyped as the helpless or homeless but instead they are granted waving hands and smiles from passerby’s along the street. They are consumed by the energized emotions of endorphins radiating from their beings.

Sure it begins to hurt by mile 2 or 3, but it hurts together. No longer are they suffering alone. Relationships are built. Like troops that have gone to war and survived a common peril or like survivors of a sinking ship they are in this together and celebrating the experience.

Finally, upon returning to the Urban Ministry Center everyone relaxes inside the air-conditioned Art Building and pulls up a chair to form a circle while sipping a bottle of water. Still sweat glistening from their brow, the neighbors reflect on the run and are encouraged to share something about a struggle they are facing or a challenge in their lives. Kelly or Meredith then lead a discussion on topics ranging from honing Interview Skills to Self-Esteem Tools for everyday life. All inhibitions seem to be left at the curb and there is a moment of sincere reflection and participation.

Now 11:30am the group high fives each other and commits to the next meet-up Friday as they hold each other accountable. This is incredible to watch.

If you would like to donate shoes or clothes to the RunningWorks program then please do so at any of the locations listed below or contact Meredith or Kelly direct at the email address below. All are welcome to join on the run!

Don’t miss an opportunity to impact our very own city on the ground level and inspire someone to enjoy the same benefits that you have received from running.

RunningWorks is teaming with Guys With Ties & Performance Therapy this October 27th for their inaugural 5K for participants of the program and more. Hope to see you there!

Meredith Dolhare –
 Kelly Fillnow -



Performance Therapy (Pineville)
6419 Bannington Drive, Suite A

TrySports (Blakeney)
9816 Rea Road

InsideOUT Sports (SouthEnd)
1514 South Church #104

Charlotte Athletic Club (Downtown)
101 South Tryon

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