The Rev. Rowland Joiner, 81, has been selected as one of 5,000 men and women who will take part in a 5-mile run-walk event on March 31 in London, England - the first competitive event in the London Olympics.
Joiner, who was born in England, was one of many thousands who applied through a lottery drawing process to take part in the race. He was shocked when his name was selected.
"I decided that as long as I was chosen, I would try to get sponsors and raise money for Books for Africa, a charity that I have supported for years," Joiner explained.
Joiner is a retired Methodist minister who served nine years as a missionary in Ivory Coast, a West African nation. After his experiences in Africa, Joiner set up a charitable foundation in the U.S. in 2003, called Quantum Connections International.
"Quantum raises funds for educational and economic development projects in West Africa," Joiner said. "We are currently helping to build and operate a school in Ghana, called the Academy of Human Development. Six classrooms have already been built, and used computers have been supplied for the students. But the 200 students at the school have no library and no textbooks."
There is no system of free public education in Ghana. Families must pay fees to send their students to school.
Joiner and his wife, Carol Spearman, are well known in Staples, Wadena, Motley and Browerville for their fund-raising efforts on behalf of Quantum Connections. They give English tea parties, organize chamber music concerts, and host African-style dinners with talks on Ghana given by local people who have traveled there to coordinate the educational and economic development projects funded by Wadena and Staples churches. They have collected thousands of used books and computers, refurbished them, and shipped them to schools in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Benin and Cameroon.
Joiner, Spearman and their partner David Evert own the downtown Wadena building formerly known as the Village Emporium. They used the building as a business incubator from 2005 to 2010, renting space to more than 50 start-up small businesses in a mall setting. Currently the building is rented to the Harvest Thyme Bistro restaurant and a bookstore.
Through his participation in the 5-mile London race, Joiner hopes to raise $6,500 - the amount needed to ship a container of books to the Academy of Human Development school in Ghana. The books have been collected from all over the U.S., and are awaiting shipment in a Books for Africa warehouse in Minneapolis.
"People can contribute any amount, even $1. But of course we'd love to receive contributions of $10, $25, and $50," Joiner said. "All contributions are tax-deductible, because we are a 501(c) 3 registered charitable organization with the IRS."
Anyone who would like to sponsor Joiner can contribute by check, money order, or Paypal. Checks or money orders should be made out to Quantum Connections International, and sent to 114 S. Jefferson St, Wadena MN 56482. For Paypal, go to www.paypal.com, register, and send your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joiner is training for his run by walking outside and using an indoor treadmill. Although he is 81 years old, he is in good physical condition. He is already up to 3 miles per day. He reached a goal of walking 4 miles by the end of January, and hopes to make it 5 miles by the end of February.