Published: Oct 18, 2011 12:09 AM EDT
Updated: Oct 18, 2011 12:32 AM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla -- Some southwest Floridians are struggling with homelessness and addiction. But now a new program is giving some people hope thanks to the power of exercise. It's called the Strider's Club.

For the first time, the Striders Club is starting up this week. Those involved will lace up their running shoes and hit the pavement, harnessing the positive power of endorphins.

"It should be great, it should be fun, exercise, and lord knows everybody needs it," said Karen Muszynski.

Muszynski is homeless and struggling to beat addiction. She's not much of a runner, but more of a walker. "When I walk people are like why do you walk so fast? That's my stride," she said.

She's taking her steps to the new Striders Club with hopes of a healthy new lifestyle.

"I did have a heart attack," she said. "So, healthy ways, healthy thinking healthy everything is more important now than it ever was before."

Roger Mercado, with the United Way is a marathon runner himself. "After further discussions we just said, we need to do this," he said.

He wants the Strider's Club to become a mentoring program to help those involved to build confidence, strength, and self esteem.

"To, in essence, replace one addiction with another. For those of us that may run, its very therapeutic, it kind of clears your mind," he said.

Once they can see how its helping her, then the word will spread among the other people who are staying there," said Merrilu Bennett, with The Salvation Army.

The Strider’s Club is looking for donations of new or gently used children’s, men’s and women’s running shoes. 

 Individuals or organizations donating shoes can drop them off at Nova University, The Salvation Army, Southwest Florida Addiction Services (SWFAS) and United Way locations, including the following:
            Department of Human Services - 2440 Thompson Street, Fort Myers
            Nova Southeastern University – 3650 Colonial Court, Fort Myers, Southeast Corner of Colonial Blvd. and I-75
            The Salvation Army – 2400 Edison Avenue, Fort Myers   
            SWFAS – 3763 Evans Avenue, Fort Myers
            United Way – 7273 Concourse Drive, off of Gladiolus between Hague and Pine Ridge
For more information on the Striders Club, or to donate, please call Roger Mercado of the United Way at 239-433-2000 Ext. 236.