When David and Kim Mitchell founded the Walk the Walk Foundation in 2005, they had no idea where the organization would be 15 years in the future.
After losing a child halfway through their pregnancy, the Mitchells were inspired to provide Christmas gifts to a child who would have been his age. Kim teamed up with her aunt Evelyn Linkous, who was a principal at a school in West Virginia, to find children to sponsor. Linkous asked how many children David and Kim could handle, and before they knew it, the Mitchells and a group of friends had provided 60 children with Christmas gifts.
“It is humankind's responsibility to take care of each other,” said Kim. “My grandmother instilled in me when I was young that you are more blessed to give than receive. I wanted to teach my children to give back.”
Walk the Walk’s three programs — Christmas for Children, Backpacks for Kids, and Diapers for Babies — have been making a difference in lives and communities in need for years.
“We provide a service and we help organizations, mainly churches, do their community outreach,” said Kim. “That's where we found our niche.”
The Backpacks for Kids program partners with Anne Arundel County’s Back to School program to provide school supplies to children within Anne Arundel County. Kim and David travel to churches, schools and businesses in their trailer where, for a small donation, community members can fill a backpack to donate without having to go to the store.
Walk the Walk is part of the National Diaper Bank Network and partners with many pantries to provide diapers to mothers in need. They are currently the only diaper bank in Anne Arundel County. Walk the Walk also provides diaper cream, wipes and baby wash.
The Christmas for Children program operated out of a warehouse for years. The Mitchells and a team of volunteers hand-sorted all of the gift donations and delivered them to the families. In 2019, Kim and David decided to restructure the program.
“We took a little bit of a different approach for Christmas this year,” said Kim. “We had some family things, like my daughter’s graduation from college and my best friend’s son getting married, and it was the two critical weekends in December.”
Knowing that she would not be able to place all of the program’s responsibilities on her volunteers, Kim decided to empower their partners to carry on the Christmas program.
“You can’t ask for one volunteer to head that entire day,” said Kim. “It is a critical day. That’s where we came to the conclusion that we needed our partners to take responsibility for organizing the gifts. I packed my ‘here’s how to’ guide to do Christmas for children at your church or your school, and therefore I have empowered the masses to be able to do what we did.”
The Mitchells intend to continue running the Christmas program this way. With their children moving out of Maryland and becoming grandparents, this restructure will allow them to be with family around the holidays.
“I coached people along the way and troubleshoot it with them when they needed help,” said Kim. “I was still involved in the aspect of connecting people with the people who needed help. Still, there were kids served for Christmas. It wasn’t stepping down, it was stepping back.”
David and Kim are looking forward to growing their organization and exploring this new style of leadership in the future.
“One of the key ingredients to having any organization or nonprofit is that you need to pass on the leadership,” said Kim. “I would hope that the programs we’ve started will continue in some fashion. That would be my goal. I think they are all necessary and I think they are all important.”
The couple is not passing the baton just yet. They are waiting for the next leader of Walk the Walk to find the way to them.
“In a nonprofit, no matter what the nonprofit is, it has to be your calling and not your job,” explained Kim. “For my husband and I, this was just something in our hearts to do. I think the person for the job will have that in their heart. They will know that this is not just a job. It is a calling.”
The Mitchells have put their hearts and souls into Walk the Walk. For Kim, being a role model to her children kept her going.
“I think I am most proud of my kids because it is instilled in them that they have a heart for service,” said Kim. “In each one of their lives there is evidence of them wanting to give back in their own way.”
Walk the Walk has been a beacon of hope in many lives in its 15 years. Kim and David hope the people they have helped will be inspired to do the same.
“It is my hope that in the last 15 years, we were able to make a small difference by giving someone hope, and most importantly, we were a good example of loving your neighbor,” said Kim.
For more information or to get involved, visit www.wtwf.org or email email@example.com.