Catherine Barger huddled with a small group of women outside the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s Jones Creek Branch at 6 p.m. sharp Feb. 24, just as she does almost every Wednesday evening.
The Your Pace or Mine Walking Club — informally known as the Pacers, crossed the parking lot in a clump to the neighborhood directly across the street and began walking up and down the quiet residential street that ends in a roundabout. Sometimes, one of the Pacers wears a bright-yellow reflective vest.
“People say they can see me coming from a mile away,” Pacer Paulette Baecht said.
And they want to be seen.
It all started with Barger, who works at the library, walking around the quiet neighborhood streets surrounding the library on her breaks.
Yvonne Hall, branch manager, loves a good program, Barger said, and suggested she make it a listed group activity and open it up to the community.
About 15 people showed up for the first group walk nearly two years ago, and many of the charter members are still walking, Barger said, all for their own reasons.
Some walk for health, but many, like Marilyn Treuil, walk for the stress relief. “I started coming to help me deal with my anxiety and depression,” she said, and the regular company of warm and welcoming women, and probably the exercise, have helped.
Over the past two years, they’ve aired countless frustrations out as they walk. “We may not have solved many problems, but we’ve certainly talked them out,” Barger said with a laugh.
But more than anything, they have walked.
In 2014, according to Barger, members of the group took 618 walks, covering the distance from Baton Rouge to Denver — 1,229 miles. In 2015, they took 648 walks for a total of 1,563 miles.
“It’s good to get outside in the fresh air,” Barger said, and Monique Williams agreed. Williams has a neurological condition called myasthenia gravis, which often requires medication with steroids. She walks to counteract the effects of the medication, she said, but the camaraderie is what keeps her coming back.
While their core group has fluctuated around 40 regulars, Barger said they hope to get more people active and involved.
The group generally walks three times a week, if not more, usually on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but due to varying weather and schedules, they coordinate their meeting times on the group’s Facebook page, Pacers Walking Group.
To celebrate their second anniversary, the group is planning a celebration April 18, and they hope to attract current and former members, and new members, as well.
Door prizes from Varsity Sports and Curves will be given out at the celebration, Barger said.
“The plan is also to have healthy snacks and a healthy cake,” she said.
For more information, contact the Jones Creek Regional Branch Library reference desk at (225) 756-1150.