Photo Caption: Aric Russell, 16, of Alexander High School and Hunter Begy, OU Airforce ROTC member, lead Homeless Walk participants up West Carpenter Street Saturday during Good Works’ annual fundraising event.
"Good Works should have a legacy, and… want the history of Good Works to say, 'They loved well,'" said Keith Wasserman, founder of Good Works Inc. during his welcome speech at the nonprofit organization's 12th annual WALK Saturday morning.
The First United Methodist Church basement in uptown Athens was filled to the brim with alert Athens residents ready and willing to support a cause that celebrates hope and love.
Good Works was founded 34 years ago by Wasserman when he was a student at Ohio University. His vision was to form a charity organization that reaches out to people of poverty and homelessness, but he stressed the importance of seeing everyone as a good and equal person rather than putting a label on someone based on his or her situation.
Thus, Wasserman created Good Works Inc., an expansive organization that includes nearly 20 other initiatives as well as the Timothy House on Athens' West Side, which provides shelter for those in need of a home. As Good Works is funded solely on community donations (see related story in this issue), the WALK is a way for the organization to raise money in a friendly and spirited setting.
The WALK began at the Methodist church and weaved its way throughout Athens and the Ohio University campus. The beginning of the event included registration, mingling and refreshments, and an inspiring welcome speech by Wasserman. A corner of the room showcased T-shirts promoting Good Works that people could buy and were encouraged to wear on the walk.
Three different walks, incorporated in the overall Good Works WALK, took different routes, and each walker had a choice among the walks and was designated a colored tag with a story and the words, "I am a real person." The first two walks were separated by the topics of hunger and homelessness. The third walk was a mini-WALK created for people who had difficulty walking but still wanted to participate in the event.
At a few different points along the way, the WALKers paused to hear stories about hunger, and learn more about food and homelessness problems in the community.
One of the stops on the hunger walk took place at New Life Assembly near OU's South Green and Riverpark Towers, where two different talks were presented both upstairs and downstairs. The upstairs talk welcomed Mary Nally, executive director of Community Food Initiatives, who discussed the actions that CFI takes to help those who are hungry. The second talk was more spiritual and focused on the role that Christianity plays with Good Works and the reasons why people go hungry.
The WALK drew a diverse group of people, some being students or children from Athens City Schools, while others were just community residents hoping to make a difference. Many of the college students who attended belonged to OU organizations such as Alpha Phi Omega, a campus service fraternity. Other students were motivated by speakers who spoke to their classes about the WALK.
"[Wasserman] came to our class to talk about Good Works and get people involved, so that's how we heard about it," said junior communications student Shelby Cook, who attended with two other students from the class.
Hannah Back, a senior communication studies major, is an intern for Good Works and helped organize the event. Many of her duties as an intern included promoting the event and speaking to groups and classrooms, while trying to make students aware of the event and the issue of poverty in Athens. According to Back, the efforts seemed to work, based on the turnout.
"My job is primarily to connect with the Ohio University… and sometimes there is a disconnect between the school and community in terms of what is going on with the economic situation of poverty that they are trying to alleviate, so I think I brought in a lot of students," she said.
Maybe it was the warm, sunny weather or just the happy buzz of supporting a good cause, but there was definitely a positive energy throughout the trek around town. At the end of the event, WALKers rounded back up at the Methodist Church for lunch and to hear stories from people who have been benefited by Good Works Inc.