Utah County visitor discovers small town America while walking

September 15, 2010 11:29 am  • 

PLEASANT GROVE -- Jonathon Stalls is on his sixth pair of walking shoes in less than six months while walking from Delaware to San Francisco on his "Kiva Walk," promoting a non-profit microlending organization, Kiva.

The 27-year-old has also been the subject of more than 60 interviews with the media since he started his walk on March 1. He spent a couple days in Utah Valley, catching up on e-mail correspondence at Pleasant Grove's Public Library, answering student questions at a UVU finance class, and resting.

"I'm learning a lot about marketing," Stalls said during a Tuesday interview. "I've been in hundreds of small towns, you know, hundreds."

When he approaches a medium-sized town, he calls ahead letting media outlets know he would love to share his story. Stalls learned about Kiva in an social entrepreneur class in 2007 at Metropolitan State College in Denver and after graduation, while working to pay off his school debts, he began to prepare for his Kiva walk.

"I don't know of anyone who could do something like Jon is doing right now and experience what he is experiencing," said his mother, Terri Brewerton of Evans, Georgia. "It's not just about making money for Kiva, it's about simplicity of life and connecting with all different people and where they are at. He is making a difference."

Stalls's initial monetary goal for Kiva was $100,000, but through his marketing approach the result has been nearly $250,000 to date. The Kiva program gives people the ability to lend amounts as small as $25 to help entrepreneurs, usually in impoverished areas of the world, enabling them to make a better life for themselves. Kiva also provides a way for groups or individuals to organize teams to combine their financial donation power such as Stalls's Kiva Walk Team.

There is a Team Obama, a Kiva Mormons team, Freemasons, Geeks for a Better Tomorrow -- a wide variety of teams from schools, businesses, religious organizations, families, youth groups, clubs, political organizations.

Stalls's walk across the U.S. has not only been successful financially and brought about Kiva awareness, it has been a journey of discovery.

The central theme of his journey has been "What's next?" he said, and he has experienced the wonder of what will be around the next corner, what is beyond the next horizon.

He said it has been an amazing discovery of geography, history and community.

"You just learn so much while walking across this country about small town America that is so much of what this country is and it gets foggy when so much of it is seen through the lens of LA or a city or an urban environment," he said.

On one of Stalls's sites, http://strayjournal.com/the-big-walk, he writes "As someone who craves to live a deep and moral life I was excited to find a cause with a heart. ... Walking across America, I've found lots of heart."

He learned that people in medium- or small-sized towns have the time to talk to strangers, that they are interested in others around them and in what you are doing.

"In small towns, I have amazing conversations about local economy, agriculture, you know, how they are doing as a family," he said. "You just have deep, longer conversations and you have the time for them."

When Stalls told his mother what his plans were earlier this year, she said was terrified for him, at first wondering how she could keep him safe.

"It has just been awesome with all of the yuck that is going on in the country, I would like to thank all of the people who have opened their doors to him and taken care of him for me," Brewerton said. "I don't know how else to put it. It has just been an incredible journey."

Online: • wwww.kivawalk.com • www.kiva.org • http://strayjournal.com/the-big-walk • Facebook search "Kiva Walk"