Can we really walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Often, it’s challenging enough to find time to walk a mile in our own shoes.
At Genesis House in Fowlerville, MI — under the auspices of Livingston County Community Mental Health Services — club members walk daily as part of the overall focus on wellness. Then, once a year in May (National Mental Health Month) they invite the public to walk with them, in combination with their annual fundraiser for the clubhouse.
This year Genesis House (founded in Fowlerville in February 1999) passed a milestone — their 10th Annual Walkathon to raise awareness in the community regarding mental illness. Walking is a mainstay in recovery programs which emphasize the management of the symptoms of mental illness, as well as promoting a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Said clubhouse director Lee Kellogg, “I like the idea of mental health awareness and walking. There is a big annual event at the capital in Lansing (in which Genesis House participates) called ‘Walk a Mile in my Shoes.’ We have consumers of mental health services from all over the state read a statement regarding mental health which ends with the phrase ‘walk a mile in my shoes.’”
While visiting the clubhouse on May 19 with my sister, Mary Reed, and my friend Clayton Klein, I was struck once again by the hospitality and welcoming atmosphere at the clubhouse.
Michelle Kozak treated us to a quick tour of the premises. She explained the history behind Genesis House and talked about current activities. Kozak says she likes to call it the “Five Star” tour because of the clubhouse high standing in certification and recognition.
My sister remarked about being impressed with the club house staff and clients. “I really enjoyed meeting them all,” she said, adding, “I learned a lot of very interesting facts.”
Klein is Fowlerville’s “Walking Man,” known for his former annual walks down the State of Michigan from Paradise in the Upper Peninsula to Hell in Livingston County and on to the Ohio border. Averaging 20 miles a day, he’d walk the 420-mile trek throughout three weeks in September. Still walking daily, the 94-year-old “Walking Man” walks for exercise and health; and he enjoys sharing stories of his walking adventures over the years. He is a regular guest each May to help kick off the Genesis House Walkathon.
The clubhouse also provides support to members for transitioning into employment opportunities. That day Jody Bucholz and Darlene Kimmel from Michigan Works in Howell joined in the Walkathon. Bucholz is on the Genesis House advisory board. “She is on our Employment Committee,” said Kellogg, “and is really helpful in our efforts to get members jobs.”
Kimmell and Bucholz said they enjoyed the walk experience with the clubhouse members. Kimmel liked the idea of including the walking program as part of the Genesis House day. “We do that here,” she said [at Michigan Works], adding that it helps creates a lifestyle habit of walking. “It’s a wonderful habit.”
Kellogg said now that the totals are in for the 10th Walkathon, the club members have set a new personal best in the distance at 285 collective miles during the lunch break.
“The annual event has dual purposes,” said Kellogg. “The most important is to impact the health of all Genesis House colleagues. By participating in the daily efforts of the Walkathon, many colleagues develop a daily walking routine that goes beyond the month of May.
The Clubhouse tracks the ‘frequent fliers’ (colleagues that walked more than five times during the month); and they set a personal best in this area too, with 24 colleagues logging multiple one mile walks during May.”
“The second part of the event is fund raising,” Kellogg added. And, yes, you may donate anytime during the year to help the clubhouse. “The books are still open,” he said, “and we are optimistic that we will reach the stated goal of $1500 by the time the books are closed at the end of June.”
“These funds,” said Kellogg, “are used to assist colleagues in improving the quality of the program by attending Clubhouse training and conferences and also to help members attend social activities.” Kellogg said that donations may be given to the clubhouse at any time.
He deemed the 2011 Walkathon a success for personal best for distance (despite the wet weather). “I think one of the big differences this year is the amount of repeat walkers (we had fewer total walkers than last year but will end up going further.) Next year we will set a goal of number of members who walked 5 times or more per month, because the best outcome we could have is for walking to become a daily habit for even more of our members.”
“We’ve averaged about 13 walkers each day,” Kellogg noted. He also issued an invitation to anyone in the community to walk with them. “Yes,” said Kellogg, “we encourage guest walkers year round –anytime!”
I, too, like the emphasis on walking and mental health that Genesis House espouses. I like the Mirriam-Webster meaning of Genesis: “The origin, or coming into being of something.” When it comes to our health, we can have a “genesis” any time. We can always start over. We can begin again.
While the annual May Walkathon provides a community focus on the clubhouse to raise awareness for mental health, every day for club members revolves around walking and a personal wellness focus. Walking, with its many benefits, puts this activity at the top of any healthful living list. It’s a tool we always have with us.
One way to begin again, for a positive lifestyle choice, is to walk – putting one step in front of the other. As the Genesis House club members discover, pure movement helps us to begin again.
Links about walking and about Genesis House
Genesis Journal May/June 2009 Lee Kellogg explains the clubhouse emphasis on walking and overall health
http://www.genesisliv.org/ Find out the back story of Genesis House and current events.
Genesis House Journal The May –June issue 2011 includes a form on the last page for donations to the 2011 Walkathon.
Walking: It’s a Good Thing at Genesis House September 2010 Livingston Talk blog by Susan Parcheta