Posts Tagged Philadelphia

Written from the perspective of and by Kathryn Fernandez, Non-Residential Member


             Saturday morning at 8:00 am I made the brisk walk to House of Passage, a shelter for single women, just a half mile from my apartment in West Philly.  I was showing up this Saturday morning to ride with the House of Passage Back on My Feet team to the annual Pickle Run, a 5k run known for its hidden pickle prizes. The race is unique because the end goal isn’t to have the fastest time, but instead, to finish as close to your predicted time as possible (nobody is permitted to wear watches).  I had the opportunity to see the House of Passage team launch, and I have done my best to attend the occasional morning run for the last few months but I typically meet new Residential Members every time I attend an event. This morning was the same, I showed up early and sat down at a picnic table next to two women wearing Back on My Feet clothing. I wasn’t sure if they were Residential Members or Non-Residential Members, a perfect example of how everyone appears wonderfully equal when they’re wearing their running sneaks.  I started talking to Melinda, whom I quickly discovered was a Residential Member running her first 5k. She was talking quickly and excitedly and it was obvious she was nervous. She said she hadn’t slept all night, she was worried she wouldn’t finish the race and would disappoint the team, but I think, she was worried about disappointing herself. She kept saying, “I’m just going to do my best.”  She also remarked that she was nervous she would end up running alone or holding other runners back from doing well. How ironic that she was worrying about running alone and my greatest fear was not finding a partner to run with myself. I told her that I would run with her the whole time and that I was relieved to have a partner. We started the race a few hours later, after a twisty half an hour ride in a packed van, and a team leader dressed as a pickle (I’m not fibbing), and an hour long wait in the 36 degree, sunny but freezing cold day.  The beginning of races are always exciting and everyone runs too fast, accelerated by their adrenaline and the spectator’s cheers. Melinda was short of breath at first and idle chitchat was not a priority. Of course, I just chattered away, I was hoping to distract her, but probably I just like to talk too much. Finally, when she settled into a good pace we were able to converse, and I discovered Melinda had never walk/ran more than a mile. Her estimated finish time was 60 minutes. I was pretty surprised considering we were walking and running at a pretty consistent pace, and Melinda seemed to be doing great. We kept our eyes out for hidden pickles along the way, but alas, we never found one. The halfway turnaround seemed to come fairly quickly, and the horrible hill didn’t really seem so horrible. Melinda was slowing down, just a little, and she was concerned she wouldn’t make 60 minutes. I laughed and said, “Melinda I will be surprised if it takes you longer than 45 minutes”. She didn’t believe me. Not long after we saw the Back on My Feet volunteers holding up signs for Melinda and cheering us along. Melinda had even invited her friend to come and cheer, and what a great choice of support because she had an impressive set of pipes. The finish line was in sight! Melinda, amongst cheers from the team, a team leader dressed as a pickle, and with her new friend, crossed the finished line, with tears in her eyes. Her first words, “I did my best” I turned her around and said, “look at the time!” She had finished in 39 minutes! It is amazing how proud of someone you can feel, even after only having known them for a couple of hours. The best part…during the awards ceremony Melinda was the most improved on her predicted time, the prize… a jar of pickles.


Pickle Run

The Prize!

The Prize!


On November 10th, Back on My Feet Philadelphia participated, once again, in the 11th annual Burlington River Run 5K.  This year was a great success!  Our newest team from House of Passage participated in this year’s run and it was the ladies first race with Back on My Feet. Team leader Chakir remarks, “It was a very successful day down at Burlington, New Jersey.  Every one of the ladies ran their hearts out and I’m proud of their effort and performance. I am so excited and honored to be featured along side some amazing ladies! I’m all smiles!”

Executive Director, Jill Fink, tells the story of Residential Member, Yasmeen, in her letter of thanks to Doane Academy.  “Yasmeen joined BoMF in early October.  She is a Resident at the House of Passage facility and a Member of our all-women’s team.  This was her first race and you can tell by the picture of her at the finish line, the sense of joy and accomplishment she felt in completing the race. You’ll also see that she pinned a photo of her mother to her bib and was very emotional at the end of race, wishing that her mom could have been there to share in the moment with her.”

Doane Academy, the Burlington and Camden Counties YMCA, and the Rotary Club of Burlington work together to present this event, and each year a portion of the proceeds are given to Back on My Feet.  As we enter into the holiday season we can’t help but feel thankful to have partnerships with organizations like Doane Academy that provide our members with these enriching experiences.

Below are some pictures of our group participating in the 5k and of Yasmeen’s emotional finish.


Jackie B. first heard about Back on My Feet from a friend in her hometown of Wilmington, Delaware who was a member at New Jerusalem Now (NJN). “When I first started I couldn’t run the whole distance. I’m a sprinter by nature so I had to start by walking. It made me feel like I accomplished something. I’m not only running for myself, I’m also running for someone else – for a lot of people.” Jackie was nervous for her first 5k race last October. After completing it, she realized “I can do this.” Since then Jackie has been consistently improving her race times and ran at the AT&T Back on My Feet Halfway-to-Broad 5-miler, despite occasional knee pain. Jackie says about the morning runs, “now I don’t even need an alarm clock. I wake up ready to run at 4:30 every morning.”

Since joining Back on My Feet, Jackie states that meeting diverse people like students from Temple and members from other BoMF teams has made her realize that each person’s story is different and relevant and in Jackie’s own words, “that I am somebody.”  Jackie’s big eyes and mischievous smile easily break into a laugh and can’t help but spread a positive mood to those around her.

Jackie had to face the untimely death of her young son, which ultimately inspired her to join the immersive, community addiction recovery program at NJN to change the direction of her life.  “I run the bad stuff off. I always say ‘Good Morning’ to my son, who is with me every day. If it wasn’t for him I’d still be sitting on the corner doing what I was doing (drugs). Now I’m doing something for me, something that is positive.”

Jackie is currently a house manager at NJN where she oversees a house of six women in the addiction recovery program.  She is an excellent motivator to the women at the house as well as to her BoMF teammates and keeps people giggling early in the morning.  Through her dedication and hard work, she manages to maintain an endearing sunny attitude, consistency and approachability.  She takes a behind-the-scenes leadership approach through many small acts that make a big difference. Whether it’s acting as a voicemail/secretary for her house residents or cooking for someone who doesn’t like to cook just to be nice, Jackie always steps up. If you’re lucky, you can spot her cooking up her favorite meal, Chicken Parmesan.

Jackie has been attending banking courses with BoMF and recently enrolled in a beginner’s computer course that she is excited about. Her openness to change and learning is contagious, even in regards to things that intimidate her and she says she knows nothing about.

 “I never completed anything I started in my life. Back on My Feet has shown me that I can do that. It helps me to keep my mind together and now I believe my kids when they tell me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.” Jackie’s kids are proud of her for being part of Back on My Feet, living at New Jerusalem Now and running races.

Ramona knows how to give a hug. Ramona also knows how to work hard. A hug from Ramona makes you feel like the center of the world, which is just encouraging to drive you to keep up with her.

Since Ramona has started with Back on My Feet she has set many goals for herself. She is interested in enrolling in the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) housekeeping training. Ramona has been working on the first step in this process by going to GED classes every week. Outside of her professional goals Ramona is focused on her miles. Every mile that Ramona adds to her total is progress forward. She is about to hit 50 miles and recently completed a 5k with Running for Answers.

Ramona helping a teammate attach a bib

Ramona is not easily deterred from the route she has planned out for herself. As the weather changed she got a case of bronchitis that put her in the hospital. Ramona is no stranger to being in the hospital as survivor of breast cancer. With two years in remission Ramona says she is very thankful for the time she has now. She has struggled with cancer as well as her own personal struggles, but you wouldn’t know it talking with her on our chilly morning runs. Her smile beams and she swells with pride talking about her family.

When asked what would she want other people to know about her or Back on My Feet she said, “There is no reason you shouldn’t go for your goals”. Ramona has encountered a lot tough times, but giving up never seems to be an option for her.

Adam C. – Residential Member OBP

“God Bless Back on My Feet”

Matt T. – Non-Residential Member OBP

“Running with bomf is an honor; I learn something important every time I’m with the group. I can’t say enough good things about our team and the community in general.”

Henry – Residential Member St. Johns

“What should a person, starting from scratch, who has no particular advantage in the world, who wishes to reach the goals that he/she feels are important to them, and maybe by so doing, make a major contribution to others, tell themselves to do first? Answer: Have a desire to do and then, Get Back on My Feet!”

Max G. – Non-Residential Member St. Johns

I’ve really enjoyed working with Back on My Feet the last two years. I have been inspired by the people I have met and learned a lot about life.  It has been great watching residents develop a passion for running and use it to become successful.  I look forward to running with Back on My Feet for years to come.”

Nikki – Residential Member New Jerusalem

“Running with BoMF clears my head so I can move forward.”

Todd – Non-Residential Member New Jerusalem

“I didn’t know what to expect when I started coming out to New Jerusalem, but everyone accepted me early on to make me feel welcome.  Now I look forward to the mornings I am able to make it out.  I used to do most of my running by myself, but BoMF has provided me an opportunity to meet great new people and establish great friendships.”

Warren – Residential Member RWA

“I never knew I could grow so much, so quickly with BoMF. Confidence, friends & more!”

Sarah – Non-Residential Member RWA

“Back on My Feet has been the best part of living in Philadelphia. I’ve met incredible people and grown in so many ways since I became a member one year ago.”

Calvin – Residential Member Team Ridge

“Calvin has been working hard the past few weeks, gaining strength and speed along the way.  He never fails to make everyone laugh with his crazy stories and antics, and his great personality helps to make the early mornings easier.  He did an amazing job helping to warm everyone up for Yoga with Sheila Dennis and New Jerusalem, and had no problem showing us his awesome yoga moves!  Keep up the great work, Calvin!” – Amina (Team Leader)

Morgan L. – Non-Residential Member Team Ridge

“We can always count on Morgan for a great story, no matter how tired we all may be in the mornings.  She’s a phenomenal runner who helps to push and inspire the res and non-res alike, yet she is still able to keep everyone entertained during the runs!  Thank you for all you do, Morgan!” –Aminia (Team Leader)

St. John’s:

With the majority of our members planning to participate in half or full marathons in the coming months, August marked the beginning of Fall race training for the St. John’s Team.

With the team logging miles at record speed this month, team coach Heather decided it was time to mix in some cross-training. Philadelphia Sports Club was generous enough to donate a SPIN room for our use one Friday morning, and former team leader of RWA, Megan Oxenford instructed the team in an intense 45 minutes of spinning, and singing to the original St. John’s requested playlist.

At the Wissahickon Wanderer’s Track Meet, St. John’s proved that training is paying off.  Bob set a new PR during his 5k race around the track, Mike P. showed us that walking is a thing of the past and he is ready to run, and the St. John’s relay team (Dan, Ron, Henry and Leonard) closed out the night with a great performance!

Sheila Dennis:

We celebrated our team’s 1st birthday with cake and dancing. Esterlina, Lisa, and Eleanor all began classes in Philadelphia’s OIC program.  Esterlina earned her 50 mile medal and 60 mile watch. Lisa and Rhoda earned their 30 mile shirts.  Dawn, Wilma, Eleanor, and Jesse ran the 400m at the Wissahickon Wanderers Track meet. Dawn and Jesse also joined a relay medley.

Our Brother’s Place:

First, team OBP would like to give a HUGE thanks to Pete DeCarolis for serving as our team leader for the last 6 months. Pete brought a tremendous amount of dedication, patience and a genuine sense of caring to our team. He’s a terrific guy and a wonderful friend to us all. He always brings his clever sense of humor and always makes each of us happy to be living in the moment. Thanks Pete!

Our new team leader is Marisa Jones. She’s been with the team for quite a while. She’s a natural leader, someone we all predicted would eventually take the helm. We are all glad that she did! We’re looking at an active 6 months ahead of us.  Thanks you Marisa for your commitment to our team.

OBP is super excited to welcome our new res-members. Just as our team was beginning to feel like a small group, we’ve added Mequan,  Jeree, and Adam. For milestones, Lamar has already crossed the 50 mile mark while Dave F. reached 100 miles! WOW! Congrats to Dave!

We witnessed stellar performances by Olani, Lamar, Christine, Pete D., Pete S., Matt, and Sebastian at the Wissahickon Wanderers Track Meet, capped off with a 3rd place finish by Team OBP (Lamar, Christine, Matt and Pete S.) in the Distance Medley Relay! The full team will be meeting up this weekend for some roller skating, which should make for a few good laughs and memories.

New Jerusalem Now

August was another great month at NJN. After the crazy July, many of our team members enjoyed the more relaxing month of August. We participated in the track meet. We loved being able to include more of our team with the shorter events. Our ladies participated in the 400-meter relay. Dave set a personal best in the mile! Mohamed also ran in the 2 miles. Awesome work guys! We continued to keep pushing our running in our training runs. Almost everyone on the team is doing at least half of the mileage at run and the other half at a jog. We have many team members who are working towards their first 5k race.

We added several new volunteers throughout the month of August. Our fearless leader was off on vacation for much of August, so we give a big thanks out to our awesome volunteers for helping to keep our team running smoothly! We also added new team members Dan and Nikki. The new res members just reached their first 10 miles! Mereald reached 250 miles and Palmar hit 50 miles. Mohamed is also starting classes at CCP.

A sad event that affected our team was the loss of Roswell, an awesome and well respected non-res. We will miss him greatly and proudly participated in a memorial run and organized cards for his family. We will always remember this amazing person and he will always be a part of our team. Some of our residents have also dedicated future races to his memory.

As we start to move into the cooler fall weather, we are looking forward to our social events and a lot of awesome fall races which we are working on building towards and having more entries in! Come out and join us for a morning run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5:40AM!

Ready, Willing, and Able:

August was a hot month for team Ready, Willing and Able, but that didn’t keep us from getting our miles in! Therion and Wardell have managed to keep their attendance at a whopping 100% while James is close behind at 99%. Both Therion and Wardell have also attended Saturday runs to help train for the ING half marathon and potentially the Philly full marathon! Maurice, our team captain, recently reached 250 miles while balancing his busy work schedule. We congratulate all of you! We recently welcomed in two new res members: Vern and Todd, who both bring an optimistic attitude and unwavering smiles to our morning circle. Lastly, Sarah stepped down from her position as team leader. Her positive spirits motivated the team and made every member feel welcome. One res member has even described her as the “Energizer Bunny” due to her upbeat attitude. We all thank you for everything that you have done!

St. John’s Hospice Residential Member, Mike P.: “Back on My Feet means that when you have lost everything, there are ways to get back on track.  Running has helped my self esteem and health, and helped me to meet new and better friends.”

St. John’s Hospice, Non-Residential Member, Matt K: “Back on My Feet has become such a huge part of my life over the last few years and I can’t imagine where I would be without the experiences I’ve had and friendships I’ve developed with BoMF members and staff. BoMF played a large part in inspiring me to pursue a graduate degree in urban planning. I will be focusing my studies on how to best serve marginalized communities, including the homeless population. I will miss my St. John’s family a ton, but thankfully I’m not moving far and will be back often to visit!”

Sheila Dennis, Residential Member:  Esterlina F: “Live, love, and laugh to the fullest!  Never allow anyone to steal your joy, and if that happens, just stay away, cause I’m back on my feet, now get with that beat!!!”

Sheila Dennis, Non-Residential Member, Eileen F: “Back on My Feet has been an incredibly inspiring experience. I look forward to going each morning for the smiles, laughs, and encouragement each member gives each other. I’m looking forward to many more miles with the team!”

Our Brother’s Place, Residential Member, Lamar B:Early mornings = long runs = long friendships”

Our Brother’s Place, Non-Residential Member, Pete S: “Getting up at 5 a.m. isn’t so difficult when you know you’re about to go see friends and get some exercise.  When you see others really getting excited about what they have accomplished, that’s what make it all worth while.  Whether it’s a new member running his first mile, or someone that has hundreds of miles under his belt; everybody feels good with the support of the team.”

New Jerusalem Now, Residential Member, Malik W:  “Procrastination is the theft of time; so don’t procrastinate so you don’t waste time.”

New Jerusalem, Non-Residential Member, Ben T: Our team chooses Ben this month. Ben’s good friend, Roswell, was also a fellow volunteer. They ran together at TU track and also lived together. Roswell has recently passed away. Roswell and Ben were both amazing ascents to our team. We want to thank Ben for bringing Roswell into our lives and team. Ben has been an awesome volunteer coming out in the mornings, and motivating our res members. Thank you Ben!
Ready, Willing, and Able Residential Member, Wardell G: “I love being with the people of Back on My Feet. Back on My Feet has given me confidence to share things with other people.”

Ready, Willing, and Able, Non-Residential Member, Heidi J: “BoMF is a fantastic organization that is filled with wonderful people.  If you are looking for an opportunity to give back to your community, this is the place to do it. Whether you have 30 minutes or 30 hours to volunteer, BoMF will accommodate anyone’s schedule.  I was looking for a way to help out within my own city and BoMF has given me that chance and the experience has been extremely rewarding.  This is a great opportunity to offer your support and kindness to those in need and you will find yourself having a lot of fun along the way!”

Ridge, Non-Residential Member, Shannon: “Ridge makes running fun – not that running isn’t fun to begin with – but Ridge’s crazy antics, lovable characters, and relaxed attitude make me want to do my best when I can and not be so hard on myself when I can’t.  No matter how fast or slow I am, I always get a “good job” and a high five.  BoMF has been such a great organization to be a part of.  It gives me the opportunity to serve my community and has also created this amazing network of neighbors I never knew I had.  I’m consistently challenged and rewarded on a weekly basis and I feel that my involvement is making me a better person.  Running is great, but BoMF offers the chance to make a difference and also form a family.”

Troy running at the Wissahickon Wanderers track meet

Troy is the standard by which all other gentlemen are measured. Troy occasionally stops by the office to keep us updated on how things are going with him. Every time he leaves he expresses thankfulness for everyone’s time. Troy will always get the last thank you even if he says as the elevator doors close as he leaves our office.

When Troy is not cheering people up around our office he is working at Oasis in the kitchen. After spending 14 weeks at the Philabundance Community Kitchen completing the culinary arts training program he quickly found employment, but Troy’s ambition does not stop there. He is currently looking for a second job in the food industry. Troy has also recently moved in with family. With steady employment he was able to furnish his new house and finally create a home.

Amidst all of Troy’s vocational accomplishments he is also an accomplished runner. In the past year Troy completed a half marathon and is currently training for upcoming fall races.

Whenever Troy visits the office I am reminded of how a simple expression of gratitude can make someone’s day. As one of our volunteers said about Troy “it only takes a short while for anyone to be impacted by Troy’s determination, spirit and dedication”.

Thanks Troy!

Despite the summer heatwave, St John’s has had a great July!  We kicked off the month with the BoMF birthday run at City Hall, had an impressive showing of support at the Fourth Annual 20in24 Relay Challenge, attended the Soul Game, and held our first St. John’s Bootcamp on the steps of the Art Museum.

The best moments for St. John’s this month undoubtedly occurred during our participation in the 20in24 Relay Challenge.  Leonard, Ron, Mike P., Malcolm and Joe completed the Bronze Relay with impressive individual times, and Chris rocked the Pajama Run coming straight from working overnight to complete his loop! Despite the heat and lack of sleep, all of our runners logged their longest distances yet and supported each other from start to finish.

Congratulations and thanks also go out to our non-res teams, lone rangers, midnight madness and pajama loop participants and volunteers!

To mix things up at the end of the month, our team coach, Heather led the team in a “St. John’s Bootcamp” on the Art Museum steps.  As a group, we ran the stairs, jump-roped, lunged, and did push-ups and sprints to get our heart rates up in a fun and unique way!

Like July, August will without a doubt be a busy month for our team.  We are planning to begin training for Fall half and full marathons, participate in a volunteer opportunity together, and keep things interesting with cross-training activities like spin class and boxing!

Res Member of the Month: Leonard

Leonard began running with St. John’s at the end of June and has been inspiring the team with his unwavering enthusiasm and dedication ever since.  As a former semi-pro football player, Leonard has applied his athletic instincts to test his endurance and push the pace during morning runs.

Always up for a challenge, Leonard ran the first loop of the 20in24 relay for the St. John’s Team, finishing his first race with an impressive time and a positive attitude.  In a short 5 weeks, Leonard has already logged over 50 miles and maintains 100% attendance, making him a reliable presence at our 5:30 runs.

The entire St. John’s Team is looking forward to witnessing what Leonard will accomplish next!

Non-Res Member of the Month: Alison Reis

Alison is a long time Saint John’s BoMF volunteer and just completed a six-month term as The Organizer on the core team. In addition to attending nearly every morning run, weekend race, and Saint John’s social outing, Alison offered her leadership skills to track resident attendance and progress towards incentives/financial aid. Alison has been one of the most positive,energetic, and consistent Saint John’s volunteers.

The Saint John’s family is privileged to have Alison as a member.

Team Ridge has had an amazing July, despite the record high temperatures!

Several res- and non-res members participated in this year’s BoMF 20in24 event.  Team Leader Amina and res member Randolph had the pleasure of meeting and running with Today Show anchor Natalie Morales on her bronze relay team.  Randolph and Amina had a great time representing Team Ridge in this event!  Jerome also competed on a bronze relay team later in the day, and ran an impressive time, considering how hot it was.  Congrats to Randolph and Jerome!

Another Ridge non-res member really made Team Ridge proud by competing as a Lone Ranger at 20in24.  He ran an impressive 9 laps of the Kelly Drive loop… that’s 75.6 miles!!! Congratulations Chris!

Some other non-res members competed in various events throughout the day.  Kate T. competed as part of a silver relay team, and Amina, Shannon, and Liz S. raced in the midnight madness loop.  Awesome job everyone, and thanks to everyone who came out to volunteer at the water station!  Your efforts were greatly appreciated.

Team Ridge took a break from running in the heat to cool off, by heading to the beach for a day.  The gang headed to Island Beach State Park on July 9th, and had a fantastic time swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach.

Members of the month:

Res- Kevin M.

Kevin is new to Team Ridge, but despite his short time with us, so far he has made a big impact.  Kevin has improved so much over the past couple of weeks, and he continues to push himself every week.  He always has a big smile on his face, and is such a great source of inspiration for the whole team.

Non-res-  Liz Schnitz

Liz is a great presence on Team Ridge, and is always the first to volunteer for events.  She is an amazing runner, and pushes the team during morning runs.  Liz is always bright, chipper and ready to run even on the hottest early mornings!  Thanks for everything you do, Liz!