She had just walked through town carrying a flag and wearing a sandwich board with “Kim’s Walking Across America” printed on it. People were curious.
“What are you doing?” they asked.
“I’m walking because homelessness in America is out of control,” Denmark tells them. “I’m trying to get Washington, D.C., to say, ‘OK, we need to address this.’”
It’s a message that resonates with the people. Some of them hand her money to help her along. Michael Cook, who works at Jack’s, paid for her food. Anniston’s Victoria Inn provided her a room for the night. It’s hard not to want to help her; Denmark is so excited about what she’s doing it feels contagious.
In her orange jogging suit, Denmark has walked across 17 states and is determined to walk across the rest to let people know they can help solve the problem of homelessness.
Denmark left her home in Dayton, Ohio, in January 2000, after experiencing an epiphany, a spiritual encounter, she said. She’d been ill and she asked the Lord to heal her, Denmark said. She told God she would do anything for him in return. Her shirt bears the answer she received: “God said ‘Walk.’”
So she did, for the homeless. Denmark had intended to go as far as Washington, D.C., to talk about the plight of the homeless to the people she thought could help, she said. But when she got there, unorganized and alone, people didn’t listen, Denmark said.
“I was so dumb and unaware,” Denmark said.
Discouraged, but not one to give up, Denmark said she decided to walk across America to build support, bring attention to her cause, and maybe to help some people along the way. One of those people is her new security driver, Hiram “DJ” Clark, 19.
Clark said that when he met Denmark he had been living in a barn for a couple weeks. With no job and no prospects, he had decided to leave his hometown in Temple, Ga. He was driving down U.S. 78 toward Alabama when he saw Denmark walking. He parked at the side of the road and asked her what she was doing, Clark said.
“My life was terrible,” he said. “She told me it was going to be all right.”
In the more than 109 months on the road, Denmark has gone through four orange jogging suits, 26 pairs of shoes and four flags, she said.
She has taken a couple of breaks from walking. The last one was in Georgia, where she took a job at the Chamber of Commerce in LaGrange for 20 months to raise money to continue her trip. She left the job in April.
Laura Jennings, tourism director for LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce, said she worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Denmark for the entire 20 months. Jennings said even as Denmark had taken a hiatus from her journey, she had worked with the homeless one-on-one in LaGrange.
“She would see someone at a convenience store,” Jennings said. “She would take them in and work with them.”
Denmark believes she’ll finish her walk in the next two years and is moving on to a new goal, she said.
Denmark left Jack’s and headed toward Anniston, her flag whipping in the wind. But just before, as she prepared to leave, she said, “I think it’s an inspiration; America needs this.”
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.