Community Supports Annual Good Works Walk – Even in Rain

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 ATHENS, Ohio- Community members came out in the rain to support the Good Works Walk on Saturday to raise money and awareness for homelessness.

Three-hundred-seventy-five walkers raised $30,891 to benefit the Timothy House, a homeless shelter in Athens that serves people from all over Southeastern Ohio.

Walkers leave from the First United Methodist Church.

The Timothy House is just one of the resources Good Works offers to combat homelessness in Athens.  

The Beginning of Good Works

Good Works started in an unexpected way.  Keith Wasserman was a senior at Ohio University in 1981 when he opened the basement of his house on Elliott Street to displaced people.

“I proposed to my professors I would do my internship by creating a space for people who were displaced in the basement of my house,” he said.  “We had never heard of the homeless; we did not find that word until four years after we started.”

Wasserman said he wants to share that passion he had when he was a senior.  He said the purpose of the annual walk is to raise awareness and compassion for the homeless.  

Throughout the day, groups walked different routes through Athens.  Each group stopped mid-walk for a presentation about a specific hardship faced by the homeless.

Keith Wasserman talks about his passion for helping people.

Wasserman said the purpose of having different experiences on each walk is to promote respect for those in the complex situations that lead to homelessness.

“It involves like 10 different areas: the challenges of housing, the cost of housing, the support system for people who have mental or emotional distress, the dealings with addiction, the lack of support systems,” he said.

A Community Coming Together

Wasserman said Good Works has seen strong support from the Athens community and Ohio University. Eleven-hundred people volunteer each year and other organizations hold fundraisers that also benefit Good Works.

Caroline Fitzpatrick, an intern with Good Works, helped plan the walk.

Walkers came back for a rice and beans lunch.

“I’ve spent the whole last two semesters doing this walk and learning about people experiencing homelessness,” she said. “But to see other people come and learn new stuff and get energized about helping people in the community who need it, that’s really important.”

The walks ended at the First United Methodist Church on College Street for a rice and beans lunch where Wasserman led a discussion. Walkers had an opportunity to share reflections on their experience.

“Something that really stuck out to me is that it’s not just about growing food to have something to eat,“ said Katie Gardner who participated in the walk. “It’s really about a sense of dignity like I have the power to be able to take control of my situation and provide for me and my family.”

Another walker, Mykal DeRamus said she found a new appreciation for what Good Works does.

“You guys do everything you can to make sure someone has somewhere to stay,“ DeRamus said. “And I think that’s a good thing.”

The six counties in Ohio with the highest poverty rates are all in Appalachia; a region that includes 32 of Ohio’s 88 counties, according to “Poverty in Appalachia” published by Good Works.  Athens is one of those six counties.  The report shows that 30 percent of Athens County residents live below the poverty line with 17 percent living in “severe poverty,” meaning their income is 50 percent below the federal poverty line.

The walk has a history of bad weather.  One year, participants turned out in a level-two snow emergency to raise money for the Timothy House.