In 2007, Anne Mahlum founded a running group to help Philadelphia homeless find support to live healthier lives and locate housing and employment opportunities.
Known as Back On My Feet, the nonprofit organizes morning runs three times a week for participants, offers financial assistance and helps the homeless set goals to get education, jobs, housing and reach other important milestones. In just three years, the organization has expanded to four other cities -- and plans to spread to five more in 2011.
The Philadelphia Daily News reports that Ranald Lindsey, a participant in the program, has completely rebuilt his life in just nine months. Lindsey has found a job as a cook and now lives in his own apartment. Back On My Feet has also helped him reach fitness goals he never expected to accomplish -- he recently completed a half-marathon.
Many runners site the emotional support they receive from the group as the most important part of the experience.
"These people encourage you. They don't view you differently because of your past," said Antonio LaBoy, 49, as he looked around at the 40 people gathered before dawn to run together. "I look and I see unity of the group. I see friendship. These people are my friends."