By Ansley Brackin
Communication Specialist for The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church
Wesley Walk for Others has gained popularity over its 31 years of walking around Stone Mountain for Wesley Community Centers. Though the establishment has closed its doors, the walk will live on to raise money for several ministries.
The Wesley Walk for Others was the creation of deaconess, Doris Alexander, the “face of Wesley Community Centers”. Even ten years after the Peachtree Road Race began, walks were not a common fund raiser, but Alexander wanted something less competitive than the popular 10K race to represent the ministry.
In the first years, participants raised money and gathered pledges to support their ten mile stroll around the park. Supporters paid per mile to contribute to Wesley Community Centers’ three programs: Camp Wesley, Project Extend, and Bethlehem Senior Center.
Today, the Wesley Walk is a six mile walk, beginning at Stone Mountain First UMC, trailing through the park and around the mountain itself. Often money is donated up front before the big day.
Through every struggle of the Wesley Community Centers, walkers continue to bring enthusiasm in October for the event. The largest amount of participants in one year is around 1300.
When the ministry came to a halt, passing one of Atlanta’s highest attended Senior Centers, Bethlehem Senior Center into the hands of Meals on Wheels (READ MORE BELOW), supporters asked for the walk to remain.
Walk coordinator, Sue Raymond, wanted to meet the wishes of the Community Center enthusiasts, but needed a ministry to lift up. A new outlook came to her while talking to friend Rev. Ellen Shepard of Stone Mountain First UMC.
Shepard talked of a yearning she felt to help children on reduced lunch in the area. With about twenty children within their camp alone on reduced lunch, she suggested that the Wesley Walk fund raising go towards starting the cause.
Raymond saw the passion in the church leader and thought of how each congregation feels connected to certain ministries, missions, and other forms of outreach. Many have their own ministries; some lack the funds to start one. She then presented an idea to the district level on allowing each church involved to choose where their fund raising goes.
“I think this has the potential for every congregation to find what they are passionate about and display what they’re passionate about,” Raymond explains.
Churches can support a range of ministries, from local outreach to missionary support. The money could start a new ministry or give an existing one a push. Possibilities are now endless.
She envisions signs created by each church lining the trail, showcasing what the congregations are lifting up in support during their walk. The Atlanta Decatur Oxford District along with the surrounding districts fell in love with the idea and excitement has grown since.
“Churches will see this as a painless way to do fundraising,” she says of the affordable opportunity, where the only real expense is a ten dollar entrance fee for a t-shirt. “Everything that they get is pure profit.”
Anticipation increased when Raymond shared the news of the Wesley Walk’s continuation at Annual Conference. Several United Methodist Women among others were excited to volunteer again for the event by the end of the session.
The walk forms life-long connections with all involved. Raymond recalls seeing a woman walking around the mountain while pregnant, then again a couple of years later with a stroller. Years later she finds the walker with her “baby” who is now in college.
“I hope this will be something where if you’ve never done it you come try it,” says Raymond.
Wesley Walk for Others wants to support every congregation’s passions by walking together in fellowship.
Participate in the Wesley Walk makeover on Saturday October 25th at 7:30AM at Stone Mountain UMC. Walk-ins registration for those not with a congregation or a United Methodist Church will be set up before the race. Online registration available soon. Get involved and learn more by contacting Sue Raymond at firstname.lastname@example.org