Clean feet and new shoes
For most, putting on shoes is part of a normal morning routine. You eat your breakfast, pick out an outfit and slide into those heels or opt for a more comfortable pair for the work day.
However, for many children in Rutherford County getting a new pair of shoes is considered a luxury. That is why volunteers and youth group members gathered at First Baptist Church of Forest City on Saturday to give out shoes to 229 children in need.
Samaritan's Feet, a community of volunteers who have joined together to provide shoes to those in need, partnered with Main Street Financial Group in Forest City and Erie Insurance to provide shoes to the children.
"Erie Insurance is one of our biggest carriers, they introduced us to Samaritan's Feet. Steve Smith, of the Carolina Panthers, came to speak to us and when he spoke we saw what an important cause this was to him," said Cooper Flack, of Main Street Financial Group. "This county is one of the most poverty stricken in the United States. This is the perfect kind of outreach our agency likes to do."
The groups worked with Rutherford County Schools to identify the families that might be in need and then sent a letter home to ask for shoes sizes.
"We try to reach those that are less fortunate and can benefit from it. We worked with guidance counselors in the schools and they helped arrange this for us," said Mike Leith, associate director of domestic operations for Samaritan's Feet. "We have a great group of volunteers scheduled and it feels great seeing the smiles on the kids' faces when they get their shoes."
Once the children arrived to pick up the shoes, volunteers also provided them with a pair of socks and washed their feet.
"The purpose is to spend time with them and let them know people and their Savior care for them. We wash their feet to serve like Jesus did with his disciples," Leith said.
According to the organization's website, Samaritan's Feet was founded by Emmanuel Ohonme who was born in Nigeria and received his first pair of tennis shoes from a "Good Samaritan" when he was 9. Ohonme went on to receive a full basketball scholarship to the University of North Dakota. The vision for the organization is to put 10 million pairs of shoes on the feet of 10 million orphans or impoverished children in this country and around the world.
"My favorite part is seeing the expression on the little kids' faces when they get new shoes," said Grey Griffith, member of the First United Methodist Church of Forest City youth group. "It makes me feel great that I'm helping a bunch of people out."
"This is our third shoe distribution. We have put shoes on close to 900 children throughout Western Carolina," said Teresa Young, Charlotte branch manager for Erie Insurance. "It's giving back. You take so much for granted. It is a humbling experience."
For more information about Samaritan's Feet, you can visit www.samaritansfeet.org.