Spend a morning in uptown Charlotte and you might spot them. Stride by stride, the Running Works team pushes over the pavement, each of their reasons for doing so different, but also the same.
The nonprofit is known to some as a running group for the homeless, but founder Meredith Dolhare says that description doesn’t even scratch the surface.
“They have a team. They have a family. They don’t feel unsafe,” she said.
After the group jogs through uptown twice a week, they come back to the Running Works office on North Tryon for sessions that focus on various life skills such as housing and job placement.
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Dolhare, a professional runner, said she’s always felt a kinship with the homeless and wanted to share the healing powers of her sport with people who needed a second chance.
Dolhare’s bond with the people she serves is personal. Many of them have struggled with addiction, which Dolhare understands.
“My story is more alike than it is different from their stories. I’m in recovery, and because I have some trauma and a lot of them have trauma and are in recovery,” she said.
The success stories are endless. Many of the Running Works athletes came to the group without a job or place to live and have done a 180. Arthur Abrams is one of them. He said he was staying in the shelter at Urban Ministries when he met Dolhare.
“All of a sudden I see this white lady running past,” he said.
He wasn’t a runner, but Dolhare convinced him to try it out.
“If you can get up at 7 in the morning, 6 in the morning, that takes a lot of discipline, especially when you’re living in a shelter and people would be like, ‘Where you going?’ ‘I’m going to run,’ ” he said.
The crew travels around the region to race in everything from 5Ks to marathons, but medals are the least they’ve gained.
For more information about how you can help Running Works, visit www.runningworks.org/.