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Two Weeks In: Rockford Deacon Continues Walk To Washington

Elizabeth Holmertz

Despite sore feet and colder temperatures, the Reverend Lou Ness is still walking. She's gone about 160 miles over the past two weeks. She started at Shelter Care Ministries in Rockford where she's the Executive Director. Ness decided to make the trek after experiencing what can be described as a "spiritual call." She crossed the Illinois-Indiana border Friday and is now making her way across Indiana. She says she manages to walk about 15 miles every four hours. She walks behind a cart that carries her food and phone and other necessities. She says she misses the comforts of home, but has noticed she has found a new anchor.

"The consistent thing in my life is my cart and so I have a completely different appreciation for people that are homeless around their stuff. That's their sense of place."

At night, she has been staying at churches and visiting with people to talk about the issue of poverty.

"I still believe that it's a little bit crazy, but I see the value of this. We will not transform the world with a big splash. It really is one tiny step at a time and about being faithful to the hard stuff, and ending poverty is hard."

This week, she spent two nights at St. Andrew's Episcopal church in Valparaiso, Indiana.

Pastor Roger Bower says he had never met Ness before, but his church was contacted about her visit about 10 days ago.

"There really was little decision to be made in the sense of trying to decide whether or not, it was 'boy,  what can we do to support her?' "

At Bower's church, Ness talked with members of an adult education group about poverty in their community.

"We are one big community of people and the issues that she's talking about unite us all."

Ness will continue to make similar visits along the way and is expected to reach Washington D.C. sometime in June.

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.
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