And around the world.
A year ago this month, Cleveland and Bradley County donors gathered more than 3,500 pairs of new footwear as part of the annual Shoes For Orphan Souls campaign coordinated through Buckner International. The endearing effort reached out to orphans and vulnerable youngsters globally.
A Southeast Tennessee traveled to Oaxaca last fall where they distributed 1,500 to 2,000 pairs of shoes in 5 1/2 days. Volunteers didn’t just hand the shoes to the children. They cleaned the children’s dirty feet, sized them and then helped the youngsters to put on their new socks and shoes.
The donated footwear goes far beyond being just a charitable donation. In truth, the shoes are an important part of helping the children escape poverty. Without shoes, the youngsters cannot attend school. Without attending school, the children will not receive the critical education that in years to come will help them to a better life and out of the poverty in which most have lived throughout their young lives.
Three local Shoes For Orphan Souls volunteers were among the local group making the trek to Mexico last fall to assist with the distribution. As published on the front page of our newspaper in the July 31 edition, they included Noreen Lomas, Bonnie Finnell and Mike Finnell.
In order to launch this year’s drive, the trio visited our newspaper recently and spoke of their heartwarming experiences in Oaxaca.
“We actually washed the children’ feet and put socks and shoes on them,” Lomas, a Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church and Caring Place volunteer told our associate editor, Gwen Swiger. She said many of the children wore old, ragged and torn shoes which were more of a safety hazard than a support.
“... A lot of the shoes we did see were falling off feet, wrong sizes, too small and the kids had been wearing them too long,” Mike Finnell added. “There were holes in the toes and the soles that were taped up.”
These are the types of children Shoes For Orphan Souls will reach this year. Since its inception in 1999, the campaign has distributed more than 2 million pairs of new shoes in 70 countries. Bradley County coordinator Dave Whitaker reports this year’s drive is already well under way. Before Aug. 1, some 1,100 pairs of new shoes had already been collected locally. The drive will continue through August.
Last year, the Chattanooga region donated more than 23,000 pair. Once the collections are completed, USExpress transfers the footwear to Buckner International’s central warehouse in Dallas free of charge.
Local shoe donors are reminded the footwear should be new and varying sizes. The local campaign is seeking a larger number of athletic shoes as well as shoes in larger sizes.
Community drop sites are marked by large Shoes For Orphan Souls signs.
Local collection points include the Cleveland Daily Banner, Community Hall Church, Gardner’s Market, His Witness Scents, Living Word Church, North Cleveland Church of God, SonRise Gymnastics, Southern Heritage Bank, T&L Baking Co., Church at Grace Point, Toyota of Cleveland, Homestead Lawn and Tractor, Whirlpool, Renaissance Salon and Spa, Cleveland Family YMCA, Westwood Baptist Church and Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.
We urge support of this worthy drive and its 10,000-soul goal.
Because shoes comfort hurting feet.
And change troubled lives.