This was the 11th year local residents have helped with the collection of new footwear for orphans everywhere from East Tennessee to Africa.
“We matched our high mark set last year,” said Bobbie Reagan, one of the local volunteers active each year in the drive.
“Last year we sent about 3,000 pairs of new shoes to Dallas, and this year we did the same,” she said.
The local team of Shoes volunteers was concerned the numbers donated by local citizens would be in decline due to the community’s devastating April 27 tornadoes and the struggling economy.
“The spirit exhibited by Bradley countians this year has been so refreshing,” said Dave Whitaker, a local coordinator for the drive.
“We’ve bounced back just like Bobbie did.” Bobbie Reagan and her husband were among those who lost their entire home to a tornado on the south side of Cleveland.
“Clevelanders have shown they have heart again this year,” Whitaker said.
In 2009 locals donated about 1,100 new pairs of shoes, but in 2010 that number shot upward to just over 3,000. Part of this upswing is probably due to more awareness about the program, but also because of new energy and ideas brought last year by a new volunteer, Keith Gombash.
“It’s been great to have Keith’s energy and ideas. After he visited an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, Keith has been on fire to see more orphans fitted with new footwear,” Whitaker said.
“When an orphan gets an new pair of shoes,” Gombash explained, “their state-of-health improves 50 percent Without shoes their little feet become heavily callused. The calluses crack open and bleed, then infections come into their bodies.
“Also,” Gombash continued, “without shoes, these kids cannot attend school, so the cycle of poverty continues.”
Collection numbers from local residents this year look like this: 2,980 pairs of new shoes, 7,150 pairs of new socks and 10,500 pairs of shoe laces.
The Greater Chattanooga region collected 28,000 pairs of shoes.
Buckner Orphan Care in Dallas sponsors the shoe collections each year in August to give time for the footwear to be shipped to Dallas, and then re-distributed to 70 countries around the world. Chattanooga radio station WMBW 88.9 FM sponsors the program regionally.
Local trucking company U.S. Express furnishes a tractor-trailer rig, driver and fuel to get the footwear from the Chattanooga collection point down to Dallas.
“One of the beauties of ‘Shoes’ is it is almost entirely driven by volunteers. There is only a skeleton staff at the warehouse in Dallas,” Reagan said.
To date, more than 2.5 million pairs of new shoes and countless socks have been sent to orphans all over the world through this effort.
“Thank you to all the 30 or so churches and organizations in Cleveland that served as drop locations for Shoes,” Whitaker said.