Woman walking across America reaches 5,000 miles near Gadsden
The Gadsden mayor and city council declared Tuesday as Kim Denmark Day.Just over 24 hours later, Kim Denmark completed the 5,000th mile of a walk across America. Her journey began nearly a decade ago in her home state of Ohio.She used to operate a staffing agency, which located and provided employment to people searching for jobs. Denmark said it was a successful business, but she realized one day that she was being selfish and did not do anything to help or inspire the people in need. "It was all about money, it was all about numbers, and I didn't even really care about the people anymore, as long as they made me money." Denmark said."I experienced something with the Lord that showed me it's not about the money and it is about the people. Now I'm walking across the nation for the very people I did not help, or turned my back on," she said."Those are the homeless, the poor, the soldiers, who fought for me. I now walk for them."She bought orange clothing for visibility, and embroidered it with "God Said 'Walk', Kim Denmark's Spiritual Walk Across America" and the outline of the United States. She documented information about the homeless people she encountered, and posted tales of the travels on her website and a Facebook page.Denmark said she began to ask what she could do for them that day. She met with city leaders and workers at shelters, food banks, and other agencies that provide help to the poor and homeless. She began to make connections and create networks to provide assistance and guidance."When I find the homeless people, I direct them where they should go, need to go, and if I have to, walk them in there. Same thing with the veterans," Denmark said."They may not know where to go, they're not well all of them, some of them are sick, and they've just kind of lost touch. They need love, they need [someone to say] 'come on and go with me, let's go get something to eat,' and loosen them up a little bit," she said."Once they start talking they pour out everything, and all they needed was someone to love, someone to love them."Denmark said Wednesday felt like she just started. Every day is a fresh new beginning. She walks about 10 miles and puts out her marker. Volunteers from a church or local organization, or a police officer or deputy, will typically check on her. Often they provide a place to spend the night, at either a hotel or private home.Gadsden councilman Robert Avery arranged for her to stay at the Gadsden Inn. Avery, mayor Sherman Guyton, and the other council members recognized Denmark at Tuesday's meeting and proclaimed it Kim Denmark Day.She said it recharged her batteries and made her want to go even further, as did the encouragement and support from drivers and others passing by."People will give me a donation while I'm walking, a dollar here, a dollar there, and it's always just enough to eat for the day and have extra change for any personal needs that I have," Denmark said.That often includes shoes. She is on her 27th pair of sneakers of the trek so far."This journey is about being a servant. This journey is about the love we have in America for each other, and I want it to be epidemic and I want people to choose to do something," she said as tears filled her eyes."Maybe not as grand as walking across America, but there's things you can do in your community. I love my country, and I thank God for a second chance to give back."Wednesday's walk was from Gadsden to Piedmont as Denmark heads to Atlanta. Her goal is to reach Washington, D.C. and meet with White House staff by the end of the year. She wants to share her documentation and research which include proposals to use vacant properties for homeless people who are serious about educating themselves and getting on their feet."I feel if we roll up our sleeves as a community and not necessarily rely on the government, we as a community can lift our own boot straps," Denmark said."I'm just here and going forward to touch as many hearts as I can and be a servant to as many people as I can."She does not think about how many years she's been on this mission. She keeps track of months, and counted 104 months. There were a couple of breaks, but she picked up her American flag and started again.As for when she will stop?"When I'm finished,"Visit kimdenmark.com for more information and to show your support.