Abby Ferretti claims she’s not a morning person, yet she radiates cheerful energy as she greets fellow runners outside MCVET, the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training. Ferretti, art director in the Marketing and Communications Department of Johns Hopkins Medicine, sets her alarm for 4:45 at least two mornings a week to exercise with the Baltimore chapter of Back on My Feet, a nonprofit that uses the discipline and camaraderie of running groups to help homeless people.
“Abby is my sidekick, and I’m her sidekick,” says Greg Stover, 54, a MCVET resident who recently earned his high school equivalency diploma and is now job hunting, with Ferretti’s help. The Army veteran, nicknamed Road Runner, says Ferretti took him shopping for healthy food after learning he fueled up for his runs with packaged pastries.
Ferretti has volunteered with Back on My Feet since 2010 when she was encouraged to join by a co-worker, media relations director Audrey Huang. Ferretti and Huang have helped men move out of MCVET and into their own apartments. They persuaded one runner to train for a marathon, then crossed the finish line by his side.
Until recently, Ferretti was in charge of recruiting and scheduling volunteers. She still flexes her art director muscles on race days, adding green hair or angel halos to members of the Back on My Feet team.
Running isn’t the only way Ferretti makes a difference. Each May, she rides her bicycle 140 miles from Ocean City to Baltimore with Ride for the Feast. Her team, Rebels with a Cause, raised more than $75,000 last year for Moveable Feast, which provides healthful meals to people with life-threatening illnesses.
Ferretti, a Baltimore native who met her husband through Back on My Feet, says it does her heart good to combine exercise and helping others. “For me, it’s looking for ways to be involved that are a natural connection,” she says. “I’m going to make time to work out anyway, and with physical activity, it’s easy to meet people and to help. When you have a 14-mile run with someone, you get to know them.”