‘soul’ in outreach
Cleveland and Bradley County youngsters are often touched by the annual Shoes For Orphan Souls drive to collect new footwear for orphans and impoverished children around the world.
Keri Parks and her two friends, Kyra Petty and Lacey Lawson, were so moved they decided to do something about it; something they were already good at ... making and selling hair bows to friends.
Not only did Keri and friends donate the materials, creativity and labor, they also employed modern technology by advertising their wares on Facebook.
“I learned about Shoes For Orphans from my dad, Jasen (Parks),” Keri said. “Bows rhymed with clothes and we liked that.”
Keri translated the $125 earned into 27 pairs of new shoes to combine with those destined for orphans in 74 countries, including the United States and even in East Tennessee.
Another local young person who has been involved in buying, collecting and donating new footwear is 15-year-old Christine Bear. The Cleveland teen has shown a boundless enthusiasm for the “Shoes” project for several years.
Not only has Christine donated her own money saved for a summer vacation, but she’s promoted the program and collected money at her church. Additionally, she is responsible for enlisting the support of the Polk County Baptist Association and snagged Massengill Tire in Benton as a new drop location this year.
Some locals have taken their belief in “Shoes” to extremes. A few have even taken pies in the face for the cause. Bobbie Reagan, Wayman Cooper and Gysa King braved the creamy stuff at New Liberty Baptist Church just off APD 40 to help collect $500 this month to purchase shoes for local drop boxes.
Others, like Joe Pesterfield and Tom Cassada, have sponsored “Shoes” locally by providing their respective companies’ services or product to help other volunteers.
“For about five years, Joe Pesterfield has donated storage space at his Cleveland Storage Center on Highway 60 near Hopewell School,” said Keith Gombash, a “Shoes” volunteer. “We don’t know what we would do without that kind of help.”
He added, “We have a very large number of custom-make drop boxes, packing boxes and those signs you see each August around town. They take up a lot of space for 11 months of the year, so Joe has been a real lifesaver for us.”
Gombash also pointed to the importance of the drop boxes.
“Tom Cassada at Abcor Packaging, just off Tasso Lane, asked his corrugated supplier to donate the materials and his company produced the terrific drop boxes you find all over town,” Gombash pointed out. “Before Abcor made these official-looking drop boxes, our local volunteers had to rummage around for whatever they could find to leave in local businesses. They’re being used in Chattanooga and as far away as Murfreesboro.”
Those wishing to donate shoes to the annual campaign are reminded the deadline is pressing.
“The last day for dropping off new shoes and socks is Friday (Aug. 31),” according to Dave Whitaker, another local volunteer. “After that, new footwear can be dropped off at Westwood Baptist Church through Tuesday, Sept. 4, by 6:30 p.m., when Clevelanders will converge on the fellowship hall for a re-boxing party like we do every year.”
Cleveland dropoff locations include the Cleveland Daily Banner, Cleveland Family YMCA, Cherokee Pharmacy, James M. Goldman Chiropractic, Gray Epperson Mazda, Homestead Lawn & Tractor, Larry Hill Ford, Living Word Church, Southern Heritage Bank (all locations), Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union, Toyota of Cleveland, Whirlpool Corp., Westwood Baptist, White Wing Christian Bookstore, New Liberty Baptist, Community Hall Church, Captain D’s locations, The UPS Store, and The Shoe Show. The list also includes Massengill Tire in Benton and Smyrna Baptist Church in Ocoee.
The Shoes For Orphan Souls program has been sponsored regionally for the last 12 years by Chattanooga radio station WMBW FM 88.9 and is a part of the ministries provided worldwide by Buckner Orphan Care International in Dallas.