Connecting steps: Walkers meet near church, trek downtown together

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GREENFIELD — One grabs a nearby post to steady herself as she stretches, bending a knee and clutching the foot lifted up behind her.

It’s a Monday afternoon, and a few more people have pulled into the parking lot south of Bradley United Methodist Church. Gathering on the sidewalk, several look at their wrists and set times.

Julie Rogers sets her watch for 30 minutes. When the clock reaches that mark, she’ll know it’s time to turn this group around and start making their way back toward the church.

Rogers started gathering a group to walk downtown Greenfield four and a half years ago, when she retired.

“I wanted a way to connect, just a connection between our church and the community,” she said. There are such connections, she said, but “We didn’t have anything like this.”

Rogers has worked out regularly for years and strongly recommends exercise, for mental health benefits as well as physical ones, she said. A walking group seemed like something doable for a wide range of ages and abilities.

With that range of abilities in mind, she decided early on to set a time and not a distance for the walks. If they walked the hour, even if the distance traveled was shorter sometimes, she’d call it a win.

Several times a week, a group gathers at Main and Pennsylvania streets to spend an hour walking. A fast-paced ensemble of (from left) Ann Vail, Julie Rogers, T.J. Banes and Shelley Rogers wound along several paths in Park Cemetery during this afternoon walk on Nov. 7. Sue True, who takes part in the morning walks, said they’ve been a great source of fellowship with others. “You’re more likely to exercise if you commit to something and there’s others you’ve committed with,” she said. “It’s been a good thing.”

Kathy McCorkle had been walking occasionally with a neighbor but decided to also show up to step out with the Greenfield Walkabouts, as Rogers dubbed them, for the Tuesday and Thursday morning walks. (The group also walks Monday and Wednesday afternoons.)

“It’s really good fellowship, and I’ve gotten to know the ladies better than I did before,” McCorkle said. “I think I get as much out of it that way as the actual physical activity.”

McCorkle said she’s also gotten to know the city better. Sometimes the group walks the sidewalks of nearby neighborhoods. Sometimes it walks on the Pennsy Trail, often seeing backs of buildings and guessing at what they might be. “You could see areas that you can’t really see when you’re driving,” she said.

Walkers have gone as far west along the trail as Labcorp near Main Street and Meridian Road, and as far east as Morristown Pike, then walking south on the Brandywine Connector Trail to Brandywine Park. Other times they’ve gone south on State Street and wound through Park Cemetery. Or they’ve walked north to Mary Moore Outdoor Education Center, near the intersection of Franklin Street and McKenzie Road, and walked the center’s trails.

“We’ve seen all sorts of birds, flora and fauna in the city,” said another walker, Sue True.

Like McCorkle, True started walking with the group at its inception. She’s found it to be even more fulfilling than she anticipated, and she has lost about 15 pounds.

“We’re called by God, as Christians, to be good stewards,” she said. “We can’t be good stewards of the earth and God’s people if we aren’t also good stewards of our bodies.”

While many of the walkers attend Bradley together, not all of them do, and the group welcomes anyone who would like to join the walks. Men, women and accompanying children or grandchildren of adult walkers have all been part of the walks over the years.

“I would love to have more people in the community come out,” Rogers said, “and at least try it.”

STEP BY STEP

Walkers set out from the parking lot at the southwest corner of Main and Pennsylvania streets in downtown Greenfield. Walks begin at 4:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and at 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Anyone is welcome to show up for a walk.

Walks continue as much as possible through the winter. If there’s a low temperature but some sun and a manageable wind chill, for example, the group might still walk.

The group has a “Greenfield Walkabouts” page on Facebook.