The final deadline is 6:30 p.m. today. Anyone still wishing to donate new shoes or socks may drop them off at Westwood Baptist Church until then. Once this final deadline has come and gone, a team of community volunteers who share the message behind Shoes for Orphan Souls will converge on the church’s Fellowship Hall for what annual volunteer Dave Whitaker calls a “re-boxing party.” At this event, volunteers will sort through the shoes, package and prepare them for shipment where eventually they will be delivered by truck to Buckner Orphan Care International in Dallas.
From Dallas, the shoes and socks — and the message of prayer, love and hope that goes with them — will be shipped globally. And some of those global locations include the United States, and even closer to home they can be found in sections of East Tennessee.
Shoes for Orphan Souls is a familiar, widely respected outreach that does exactly what the name dictates. It provides new shoes and socks for the orphans of impoverished countries, towns and villages around the world. Just last month our newspaper published the story of area residents — longtime Shoes for Orphan Souls volunteers — who have made mission trips delivering the shoes. On this occasion, a pair of unpaid workers traveled to Mexico to assist in bathing and sizing the feet of the children, and to distribute the new footwear.
Some might ask the natural question, in such times of poverty and hunger, might food not be a more appropriate gift? It is a reasonable inquiry, one we would answer like this. Global hunger programs are already working hard to reach the most impoverished of areas. Many are succeeding. Others have much more work to do.
As appropriate and well-placed as these programs are, their aim is to feed the hungry. And they do it well. Yet, their charge is to feed, not to clothe. In many distant lands where international aid is shipping in tons of nutrition, it is not providing another dire need — clothing, and in this case, shoes.
Many in Cleveland and Bradley County might be surprised to learn that in many Third World lands barefooted children cannot attend schools. It is an ironic twist because as modern society has learned over the centuries, an education is the secret to reversing the cycles of poverty and to creating positive change. Without education, hope cannot grow. And without hope, an impoverished people have little reason to believe in a better tomorrow.
It is for this reason, among others, that Shoes For Orphan Souls gives a simple gift, yet one that can open classroom doors of opportunity to poverty-stricken youngsters who otherwise would have little recourse but to remain among the uneducated and to live without hope, without a dream and without fair opportunity to reverse their own cycles of despair.
Thankfully, programs like Shoes For Orphan Souls reach thousands of children whose greatest misfortune is being born into an abyss of little or no opportunity. And thankfully, as well, these programs succeed because of volunteers who believe in the symbolic message that a new pair of shoes can bring.
These dedicated volunteers — like Ocoee Middle School seventh-grader Keri Parks, and her two friends Kyra Petty and Lacey Lawson, and Bobbie Reagan, Wayman Cooper and Gysa King, and Joe Pesterfield, Tom Cassada and Keith Gombash, and so many, many others like Dave Whitaker — are the spirit behind the heart of Shoes for Orphan Souls. They are the souls behind the spirit of a miracle called opportunity.
We thank those who carry the torch of this marvelous outreach along a higher ground.
We credit the love and humanitarian drive that governs their own souls so deep within.