By Gary Lloyd
TRUSSVILLE — Kim Denmark stands outside Target in Trussville, her orange outfit about as bright as last Wednesday’s sun.
She’s holding a United States flag, a beat-up cloth attached to a dented metal pole, the gold eagle at the top missing one wing due to a pesky tree branch in New Jersey. She does not allow the flag to touch the ground, because that can be perceived as disrespectful. She wears a hard sign that drapes her front and back, like some rookie store employee begging for customers.
Denmark, however, does not work for Target.
A man pulls up in a green Dodge truck at a stop sign in front of Target, and his passenger window is rolled down. The man leans to the center of his two-door truck, motions to Denmark and calls out, “Thank you for what you’re doing.” He compliments Denmark’s flag, which is spotted on the white stripes with faded orange stains.
“It’s the real deal,” Denmark says to the man, and he again thanks her.
“You’re welcome and God bless you,” she says to him.
Denmark, originally a businesswoman from Ohio, is walking across the country, raising awareness for the poor, homeless and economically disadvantaged. She admits she was successful in business, but also arrogant and wouldn’t help people or give back to her community. She judged homeless people who were drunk, she said.
“I never thought about who that guy used to be,” she said.
She says she had an epiphany, and now lives to serve others.
By walking, Denmark’s goal is to dramatize the severity and dedication of her personal interest in America’s indigenous and working poor. She hopes to initiate a spark in cities across the U.S. to become more proactive in helping those in need. She calls it the “I choose to do something” campaign.
To date, Denmark has walked 4,790 miles across 16 states in just more than 110 months. She’s gone through 26 pairs of New Balance tennis shoes and worn out two pairs of boots.
She plans to take her walk all the way to the White House by October, with hopes of getting the attention and support of President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress. She hopes to show Obama the information she’s acquired across the U.S. relative to homeless people and homeless veterans.
“It’s out of control,” Denmark said of homelessness.
Denmark stopped at Lowe’s on Edwards Lake Road on her way into Trussville last week. She met a female soldier there, who was soon retiring after 30 years of service. The soldier told Denmark to tell people in the White House not to forget about fallen soldiers and ones struggling.
“That’s what it’s about,” she said.
Denmark said if she’s walking through a state and hears about someone getting evicted from their home, she tries to speak with the judge to get more time for the home’s occupants, to get the lights turned back on. Sometimes the judge talks with her, and sometimes the judge doesn’t. She said 90 percent of the time, though, she’s able to help get families more time.
Denmark is striving to be a representative and voice for the poor, to speak about homelessness, poverty, job loss and housing. Her goal at the local level is to get communities to talk about doing positive things for their residents.
“Everybody can choose to do something in their community,” she said.
Last week, Trussville Mayor Gene Melton issued Denmark a pennant of Trussville. Trussville Police Department Lt. Herb Rosenbaum drove Denmark to a hotel at the end of her day walking and Hampton Inn provided her stay in the area.
Denmark wears all orange — from her shirt and pants to her hair tie and parts of her shoes — because when she first started trekking across the states, it was winter and she wanted to be visible in the snow. It’s now more than that.
“When you see me, you see bright, and that’s what I represent,” she said.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.