Q&A With One of Our Fave Non-Profits, Back on My Feet

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We love interrupting our daily dose of haute couture and BB cream to talk to someone who is really, truly making an impressive difference in the lives of others. That's not to say that fashion doesn't highly benefit others, because it certainly does, but we at MC enjoy feeling inspired just as much as the next person. This week, we spoke to Anne Mahlum, founder of the national for-purpose 501(c)3 organization Back on My Feet (BoMF) that uses running to create independence, confidence, and self-sufficiency among those those experiencing homelessness in 10 (soon to be 11!) cities. For more information, head to backonmyfeet.org.

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Marie Claire: Firstly, can you speak on the power of the second chance?

Anne Mahlum: The truth of the matter is that everyone needs second chances. But when someone doesn't have the resources when they need second chances, it's often viewed as a little more their own fault. But for a lot of our members who haven't had the guidance, resources, or community, they make a few mistakes and find out they're on their own. We're all about building trust, community, authentic, friendship and mentorships.

MC: What are some of the values you teach members?

AM:We're teaching our members about discipline, reliability, and responsibility. We've found that they're able to change their personally perceived identity from undeserving to a runner, a teammate, and a friend with discipline and focus.

We have our members running three days a week at 5:30 a.m. We hold a social event once a month that is non-running related, as well as offer more one-on-one coaching — we have 47 staff members around the county. They then get training at Accenture and Marriott, and further, take classes to be able to show they can manage money and have money in a bank. We always think where a new member may be in their life, with their own talent experiences and interests in order to get them from point A to point B. It's an individualized approach.

We know what they want. Ninety-nine-percent of our members want a job, a place to live, and better quality of life — think relationships, vacations with family, not being dependent on the shelter system. They want a job, stability.

MC: I spent a year working with homeless teens in the Chicago-area, and they definitely inspired me much more than I did them. What kind of inspiration have you drawn from your members?

I've learned that our members are really brave — they have a lot of work to do before they get to where they want to be. I've become a better person — I try harder — and I've learned that whatever I'm enduring, there are solutions. They help me put things into perspective based on how grateful and humble they are for what they have. You can so easily lose that when you get caught up in day-to-day.

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