Homeless to Run Peachtree Road Race

10:45 PM, Jul 1, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA, Ga. -- "Being in here, it's totally surreal."

Mondays, wednesdays and fridays start early. 

"I go down, go to the kitchen." 

59 year old Bill Lepchitz uses the industrial steel tables to get ready. 

"I do all different kinds of stretches. I lay down flat and put my feet up and then stretch."

Once Bill gets outside the Gateway Center, the morning gets lively, quickly.  

A circle of more than a dozen runners is warming up, jogging in place, cheering. 

Some of these runners are volunteers who drive from as far as 30 miles away. The rest, like Bill, are homeless. 

"I'm homeless right now, yes I am."

A former six figure earning executive with a comfortable life in East Cobb, Bill lost it all to drug addiction.

"Even as a guy who lived at the country club, I used to look down on homeless people and would just look the other way and had no clue, I had a stereotype of it." 

Sober now, on the other side, Bill is benefiting from the non profit Back on My Feet, which helps the homeless make strides on the street and in their lives. 

Mandy Putnam is a volunteer. 

"They have to have 90 percent attendance and we run monday, wednesdays and fridays at 5:45 in the morning so it's really no easy feat." 

But those who show up and run get job referrals and financial aid -- to pay off debts, go to school, learn a trade. 

Putnam says, "I tell people all the time this is the absolute most selfish way to volunteer because it doesn't feel like volunteering at all. It just feels like I get up and go run with my friends."

On her friendship with Bill, Putnam says, "I noticed that Bill and I tended to run the same pace so we'd end up falling in line and doing our two three mile runs in the morning."

The two bonded over their love of food, discussing their fantasy foods and latest meals on the runs. 

Bill says, "I hated running in the beginning." 

Step by difficult step, he became a runner. A runner who loved running. 

"Running and my sobriety, they kind of parallel. So the better the running, the better my life, the better sobriety." 

Now Bill will run his very first Peachtree. Tears fill his eyes as he talks about it. "You're going to make me cry. I'm going to be 59 years old and I'm going to be running The Peachtree which I never could possibly imagine. And now I'm just so excited, all because of Back on my Feet."

The material wealth is gone. But Bill's life is rich in new and profoundly unexpected ways.

"My life is good now. I have a lot of joy, a lot of happiness, a lot of new friends." 

And step by step, those friends are making sure he gets back on his feet. 

"It really changed everything, changed my whole life." 

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