The drive received 2,264 pairs of shoes from a single donor helping make this the best year for the organization yet.
“It’s the most we have ever received from a single source (in Cleveland/ Bradley County) in the 13 years we have done it,” volunteer David Whittaker said. “It’s fantastic. This donation eclipses the total we had last year.”
“I was just in awe. We have been praying for our goal of 10,000 shoes (in one year) for three or four years,” volunteer Keith Gombash said.
Shoes for Orphans Souls also had a record number of drop-off locations locally this year.
According to Whittaker, there were 45 drop off locations in Bradley County.
Total collections came in at 7,224.
“The quality of the shoes this year on average is really high,” Whittaker said.
Whittaker said more athletic-style shoes were donated this year.
Durable shoes are important to the health and education of the children to whom they will go.
Gombash said each pair of shoes will be a part of a missions trip. Volunteers on the trip will wash the children’s feet, then put a pair of socks and shoes on them.
Most of the children served by the program live in extreme poverty, according to Whittaker.
These children live in homes made out of whatever material is available. In these areas indoor plumbing does not exist, and raw sewage in the streets is common.
“Without shoes their little feet crack open and they are walking with open sores in sewage. A pair of shoes puts half an inch of protection between their feet and that sewage,” Whittaker said.
The shoes may also open educational opportunities to the children.
“If education is available to these children, they won’t let them come without their shoes,” Whittaker said.
Shoes for Orphan Souls is a program of Buckner International with partner WMBW (88.9 FM)- Moody Bible Radio serving as a regional sponsor.
The first drop off location in Cleveland was Westwood Baptist Church. Later, White Wing bookstore signed on and the program has continued to grow.
The local shoe drive is held annually in August.
After the shoes are collected, volunteers repackage them discarding shoe boxes and tissue paper to save on shipping costs.