This mindset has graced the work of Shoes For Orphan Souls since 1995, and now the annual campaign has kicked off again in our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown.
The drive began officially last Wednesday although volunteers had already collected 600 pairs of new shoes by the initiative’s launch. Most of these donations came through the work of the Church at Grace Point and Trinity Riders motorcycle club, according to Dave Whitaker, a longtime “Shoes” volunteer who joined the annual drive 11 years ago.
What was it about an international shoe program for children that tugged at Whitaker’s heart and intrigued his imagination?
“I liked the idea that there is a very, very small paid staff at the warehouse in Dallas (a central point from which thousands of donated shoes and socks are shipped to remote villages and impoverished lands around the globe),” he told our newspaper. “It’s like all the volunteers are connected by the new footwear around the world, and the kids.”
But it’s the second half of the Cleveland resident’s statement that tells the story of a volunteer who first saw only shoes. Now he sees the much bigger, far broader picture that makes Shoes For Orphan Souls the endearing mission that it is today.
“I don’t see the shoes and socks so much anymore,” he explained. “In my mind, I see the kids who will get them.”
And that’s the story behind Shoes For Orphan Souls. As on the wings of eagles, the new footwear carries the messages of hope, love and humanity to those whose tender lives can be touched by such messaging the most.
For those unfamiliar with this touching humanitarian campaign, Shoes For Orphan Souls is driven by Buckner Orphan Care International in Dallas. In the Southeast Tennessee region, it is sponsored by a Chattanooga area radio station, WMBW-Moody Radio, which is 88.9 on local radio dials.
Last year, some 35,000 pairs of news shoes were collected in the Chattanooga and surrounding area. Cleveland and Bradley County residents accounted for about 3,500 of those sets of shoes.
Once collected, the shoes here are transported from Chattanooga to the Dallas warehouse via a truck donated by U.S. Express.
In past years, local volunteers have traveled to remote villages to help distribute the shoes to orphaned children whose delicate lives and uncertain futures teeter between the harsh poverty of their real worlds and the hearts of gold of complete strangers who have traveled thousands of miles to offer a hand of help, a prayer of hope and a message of love.
One is Sonya Ownbey, a Cleveland nurse who journeyed to Mexico last year to assist in the distribution of shoes and socks, and to help fit children for their gifts.
“What a wonderful experience we had placing a new pair of shoes and socks on the feet of orphans and impoverished kids,” she told us. “We couldn’t do this without the thousands of pairs of shoes donated by caring people.”
Shoes For Orphan Souls provides new footwear for children in more than 70 countries. And much of the dream starts in our Cleveland and Bradley County community.
Those who wish to donate new shoes and socks, may do so at the following dropoff locations: Cleveland Daily Banner, Cleveland Family YMCA, Cherokee Pharmacy, James M. Goldman Chiropractic, Gray Epperson Mazda, Homestead Lawn & Tractor, Larry Hill Ford, Living Word Church, Southern Heritage Bank (all locations), Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union, Toyota of Cleveland, Whirlpool Corp., Westwood Baptist Church, White Wing Christian Bookstore, New Liberty Baptist Church, Smyrna Baptist Church in Ocoee, Captain Ds (all Cleveland locations) and The Shoe Show.
Additional information is available at the program’s website at www.shoesfororphansouls.org.
We encourage community support for Shoes For Orphan Souls, a program that puts its best foot forward through a refreshing outreach that leads from the heart.