Walk a Mile fundraiser boosts Christian Center's efforts in fight against homelessness

Mar. 4—ANDERSON — After teaching jobs brought Renfang Taylor and her husband to Madison County from central Missouri, it didn't take the couple long to become aware of a significant need among the homeless population in the area.

"We're new here," Taylor said as she waited with her dog, Harley Joe, for her husband to join her Saturday morning outside Reardon Auditorium. "We heard there are lots of people in need of help in this community."

The Taylors joined an estimated 300 other walkers for the Christian Center's 10th annual Walk a Mile in My Shoes fundraiser. Held on the first Saturday in March, the event has come to double as a focal point for networking among several area nonprofits, as well as celebrating a spirit of unity behind the cause of ending homelessness in the area.

Those who raised money, either as individuals or as part of a team, were there as "part of a cause that brings hope into hard situations," Christian Center board member Keith Wooden told the crowd before the walk began.

"As we continue the dialogue on how we wrestle with homelessness and hunger and poverty in our community, more and more people are starting to embrace the whole concept of what this represents," said Rob Spaulding, executive director of the Christian Center. "We stand as a community united."

Temperatures in the low 40s and cloudless skies greeted those who took part in the one-mile walk along University Boulevard to the Christian Center's downtown headquarters.

Organizers said the money raised Saturday — Spaulding estimated the amount would approach $30,000 — would go toward funding the Christian Center's core services. In addition to a shelter with room to accommodate up to 70 men, the center serves an estimated 300 meals a day as well as funding operations at the Elios Center, which provides resources for those in need to connect with local agencies for food, clothing and other help.

"It's about just being able to...literally put ourselves in the shoes of those who are in need and being able to understand where they're coming from," said Elise Mickler, another walker. "I think it makes us more compassionate and willing to step into what their needs are."

Spaulding said the Christian Center will continue to explore partnerships with organizations that are engaged in similar charitable ventures.

"If we see something that's being done really well, we don't reinvent that," Spaulding said. "We pull in a partner that does it really well and we engage them, and what it does, the tide raises for everyone at that point."

Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.