Unpaid volunteers will begin picking up Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls collection boxes one week from today, meaning little time remains for dropping off new shoes and socks in the drive that’s …
Unpaid volunteers will begin picking up Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls collection boxes one week from today, meaning little time remains for dropping off new shoes and socks in the drive that’s completing its 14th year in Cleveland.
“We’re down to our final week so we want to remind everyone in this community, as well as those in surrounding areas — many of whom are practically part of our community — that we need everyone’s help,” said Bobbie Reagan, one of five project leaders working together to spearhead this year’s initiative.
She added, “By now, anyone who knows anything about Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls, and anyone who has followed the newspaper stories, are well aware of the importance of a pair of shoes in many impoverished regions of this world.”
In some pockets of the globe — whether they’re south of the border in Mexico or tiny villages throughout Central and South America, or an ocean away on other distant continents — shoes aren’t just about footwear.
“They’re about life,” Reagan said. “They’re about hope. And to get either, you have to get an education. That’s what Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls is all about. It’s about giving opportunity. It’s about giving children in other lands a thing called hope.”
The education factor within the annual drive is this: “In some countries of their world, and within their rural areas and villages, shoes are required to get into school. No shoes mean no education. No education means no chance of getting a decent job, with decent pay, as a young adult. Poor pay means never making it out of the cycle of poverty that afflicts so many families, and their children, in underdeveloped regions.”
It’s not just about overseas or neighboring needs. Some 30 percent of the donated new shoes and socks stay inside the United States. Of that number, some even make it as close as rural areas in East Tennessee, Reagan cited.
“This is a people ministry,” she stressed. “We do as much as we can to help with our own country’s domestic needs, but we also reach out to people in other lands where there is very little opportunity to make things better.”
Along with education, Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls also targets health.
“There are areas out there — local residents who have been a part of international mission trips know what I’m talking about — such as the neighborhood slums of Nairobi where raw sewage flows freely,” she said. “In times of heavy rain, the unrestrained effluent makes it into streets and heavily used roads. Barefooted children become the victims.”
Reagan, who has described such areas with fellow volunteer leader Keith Gombash who has made many mission trips to Africa, and specifically to Kenya, said cuts, scrapes and other wounds on kids’ feet can get infected from human excrement.
“This leads to disease,” she said. “It can impair cognitive skills, it can even be life-threatening.”
Reagan added, “That’s what Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls is all about. We focus our work on education. We also focus it on health.”
The Shoes for Orphan Souls program originally came to Southeast Tennessee some 18 years ago, thanks to 88.9 FM Moody Radio, a Chattanooga-based broadcaster that has headed the regional effort ever since.
Four years after Shoes for Orphan Souls came to this corner of Tennessee, the Cleveland market jumped aboard thanks to the work of Cleveland resident Dave Whitaker, a longtime volunteer who grew — and who strengthened — the program in Bradley County. He continued in this role until a couple of years ago when worsening health forced him to “retire” as the program’s lead volunteer.
Reagan and Gombash, who were already working at Whitaker’s side, took over the program’s leadership and have expanded the organizing team. It now includes Reagan’s granddaughter, Christine Campbell who handles much of the recruitment in Polk County, as well as Shane Lawson, associate pastor at Clingan Ridge Baptist Church, and Noreen Lonas, another longtime volunteer who has served as a Buckner mission member to Mexico.
Last year, the shoes ministry distributed footwear in 82 countries. More than 3 million pairs of shoes have been hand-delivered by Buckner mission volunteers in the much-respected program’s long history. Some have included Cleveland area residents, other than just Lonas (who is featured in an accompanying story in this edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner).
Below are some tips for those planning to donate new shoes and socks to the drive as it winds down this week:
• Only NEW shoes and socks can be accepted. Any USED footwear that is given is donated by Shoes for Orphan Souls to The Caring Place.
• All sizes of footwear will be accepted, but those in greatest need are sizes 7-9 for boys and girls. Tennis shoes and boots are in highest demand.
• Monetary donations can be accepted in lieu of footwear. Monetary gifts are used to purchase additional new shoes and socks. Checks should be made payable to “CATCH Ministry.”
• New footwear donations made after the Monday, Aug. 28, cutoff will be stored for use in next year’s drive.
• After collection boxes are picked up on Aug. 28, a packing party will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 29, at 6 p.m. at Westwood Baptist Church. Volunteers are welcome to help with the packaging. The filled boxes, which are being donated by Abcor Packaging LLC of Cleveland, will be delivered to the Chattanooga radio station on Aug. 30. From there, they’ll be shipped by truck to Buckner Ministries International, based in Dallas. From there, they’ll be hand-distributed globally by volunteer mission teams.
• Additional information about Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls or Buckner International Ministries, or anyone who wants to arrange a group donation or to offer their time as volunteers, may contact Reagan at 423-255-2320.
Some 33 collection sites for new shoes and socks have been designated this year throughout the Cleveland and Ocoee, and Bradley and Polk County areas. Reagan reported more new collection sites have been added since the launch of this year’s drive. The original list is being reprinted in this edition of the Banner.
“Our team of volunteers strongly believes in what we’re doing,” Reagan said. “And our community continues to show its support. Our belief is this: If we can change a child’s life with a simple pair of new shoes and new socks, then that life is well worth anything that we put into this effort.”
She added, “To those who have helped us in the past, and who are helping again this year, thank you so much for what you’re doing, and for understanding why you’re doing it. For those who can’t help us, for whatever reason, we do truly thank you for at least considering it and for taking the time to ask us questions about the program.”
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