A Personal Account: James and Xavia
Our dynamic duo is right in the middle of this photo to the right of RunningWorks founder and executive director Meredith Dolhare. This was taken at the now-famous Charlotte Knights baseball game where James secured employment so he could join the team.
James and Xavia, 18 and 19-years-old respectively, are a wonderful example of how running works, and the RunningWorks family in action. The first day we came across this go-getter couple, they were sitting on a couch at our program for homeless and runaway youth cycling out of foster care at age 17. We asked them to join us for the program since they were simply sitting glassy-eyed and looking hopeless. Come to find out, they were on the street and starving.
James spoke for the couple since Xavia is quite shy, and his first sentence to us was, “We would love to run or walk, but we are so hungry. We have not eaten in two days. We are sleeping in the worst conditions you can imagine.”
Dangling a carrot, we told them that if they ran with us that day and took part in the life skill, we would feed them immediately afterwards—and would provide a bus pass to each of them so they did not have to walk “home”.
That day, James was insightful and lively during the program. He opened up to us on the running route telling a story of legal issues and hard luck. Both were estranged from their families. He shared freely during our life skill session, and his words hit home for many of the other youth who are often loathe opening up in front of others.
That week, we had tickets to the Charlotte Knights baseball game, which was after 6pm in the evening. At the time, James had an ankle monitor, and he was not allowed to be “out” after that time unless he was working. As a result, he secured a job at the Charlotte Knights stadium in vending so he could join us! Even though she was brand new and did not know anyone yet, Xavia met the rest of the group on time by herself, and they reunited at the ballgame. This is when we knew James and Xavia had the RunningWorks hustle. There was hope for them, and we could see it.
They returned again and again for the next two months as they struggled to keep afloat—believing that our program is so much more than running. We visited where they were sleeping one night post “family dinner”, and were shocked by their living conditions in a four-foot by six-foot unventilated storage shelter. They chose this location so that James could plug in his ankle monitor in a nearby renegade electric outlet. Even though they were both working, this was the only option they had. Showers were hard to come by, which made getting prepared for work a challenge. Somehow, these two brave souls would not only make it to work, but the RunningWorks programs and events.
We are happy to say that both are happy, healthy and reunited with their families in addition to having housing of their own for the past nine months, which RunningWorks helped them secure. The rest has been up to them! They have maintained the rent each month, groceries and several jobs between the two of them. James has not gotten into any more trouble, and is a reformed young man sans ankle bracelet. They still join us weekly pending their work schedule at our various programs. Both of them motivate others by their story, and share during group time with “real talk”.
We always say, “There are no excuses. If James can get three jobs toting an ankle monitor around, what do the rest of you have to say?”
The irony is not lost on even the elders at RunningWorks, and it gets them thinking. We are proud to call James and Xavia a successful part of the RunningWorks cog. Each week, we provide their transportation to work via bus passes. Otherwise, they are extremely self-sufficient, and the distress calls are limited.
James and Xavia have hustle. They are going to make it, they are making it—they are the embodiment of what we are attempting to achieve.