The annual drive ended recently in Bradley County and the Chattanooga region with local residents accounting for 2,252 pairs of new shoes and a whopping 18,152 pairs of new socks, Whitaker reported. The footwear has been boxed and shipped to the Dallas warehouse from where it will be distributed to orphans in 74 countries.
“This was again a successful drive overall, but we have been notified that the sock donations through the Cleveland and Bradley County community is the largest single sock donation in the history of the Shoes for Orphan Souls program,” Whitaker said. “We have been contacted by Buckner Orphan Care International in Dallas to confirm this achievement. Not only have they congratulated Cleveland and Bradley County on this record generous gift, but they have pledged their support to us in future campaigns.”
Including Bradley County, the Chattanooga region sent a total of 24,393 pairs of shoes and 56,000 pairs of socks to the Buckner Orphan Care International warehouse in Texas. The transport of this full semi-truck load, as happens each year, was donated by US Express, Whitaker explained.
Thirteen-year-old volunteer Nathan Wallace played an important role, Whitaker cited.
“He’s the sort of young person who will help build a more compassionate world,” Whitaker said. “He likes to help out around his church and particularly likes to be a part of the Shoes For Orphan Souls effort each year.
Last year, and again this year, Wallace was entrusted with the task of fitting as many large boxes of footwear as possible into the trailer for transfer to Chattanooga.
“It’s the kind of job I like,” Wallace said. “I’m good at geometry at school so it’s a challenge to see how many boxes I can get on the trailer.”
That turned out to be important this year because there was no extra room remaining on the trailer nor in the 15-passenger van that pulled it.
“We are so blessed in America, and I like doing this,” Wallace reasoned, “because this is something we can give to orphans that doesn’t belong to anyone else. It’s just for them.”
Young Wallace shoe-horned 138 large boxes of what Whitaker described as “precious cargo” into the van and trailer.
“The Shoes project has become a team effort in Cleveland over the last several years,” said Keith Gombash, another longtime Cleveland volunteer. “Once we collect the shoes and socks from the various drop locations, all the original packaging must be discarded and the footwear repacked into larger boxes. That’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of volunteers. Then we deliver it all to the donated US Express semi-trailer spotted at WMBW Radio Station in downtown Chattanooga. From there it goes to Dallas.”
Martie Floyd is still another Bradley County volunteer who has been active with Shoes.
“I look forward to the beginning of September each year to see how many shoes and socks we collected in August,” she said. “I’m already looking forward to next year, to work again with the volunteers who make this such a terrific thing to do.”
Mrs. Floyd and her husband, Roy, along with volunteers Rex and Bobbie Reagan, pulled a large trailer to a supportive hosiery plant in North Carolina in early September to pick up a company donation, Whitaker explained. They returned with the donation of 9,500 pairs of high-quality socks which they delivered to the radio station in Chattanooga.
“Because of their willingness to serve others, this team helped to bring the Cleveland and Bradley County community socks total to about one-third of all the new socks donated in the entire four-state region,” Whitaker explained.
Floyd pointed to the moral mandate behind programs like Shoes For Orphan Souls, especially those that originate from within the U.S.
“The way we live in America, as well off as most of us are, just about every family can donate a pair of new shoes or socks,” Floyd stressed. “I’d like to invite others to be a part of this next year.”
Regionally, Shoes For Orphan Souls is sponsored by Chattanooga radio station WMBW, FM 88.9, and is handled worldwide by Buckner Orphan Care International.
“Those who choose to get involved in Shoes For Orphan Souls, either as a volunteer or a donor of socks and shoes, are instrumental in helping to change the lives of thousands of impoverished orphans around the world,” Whitaker said. “This new footwear is distributed to these children in need in 74 countries. Even more importantly, this program reaches families and children within the U.S., and even in East Tennessee.”
Whitaker added, “Once again, we say a collective thank you to Cleveland and Bradley County, and to everyone who believes in our work by supporting its mission. We invite others to get involved next year.”