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January 31, 2014

Outreach ministry aims to collect shoes for children

JACKSONVILLE — Organizers are hoping that a local shoe drive will quickly gain support, ensuring that no child between ages two and 18 will have to worry about going without.

“Shoes are one of the most important thing on our walk, in both our journey and to our future,” said Calvin Brown, founder of the Jacksonville men's outreach ministry “Brothers On The Move,” which is sponsoring the drive, which goes through April. “Who wants to walk through burrs and rocks to get from one place to another?”

He admits that “when God brought to me the idea about shoes, I thought, ‘shoes?’”

But in recalling the popular coat drive held throughout the area each fall, he quickly realized that like other garments, youths quickly outgrow footwear, and families may not have the funds to keep up the pace of replacing shoes.

“I understand how it is when you go through a puddle of water, and there’s a hole in your shoe – the water goes through the sole,” causing the wearer discomfort, Brown said. “I thought it would be a good ministry, because we really don’t think about how we use shoes year-round.”

Working with Daniel Minton, the former Bonner Street Plaza marketing director, Brown found support at the Jacksonville senior residential center as well as at The Plaza in Tyler, where Minton now serves as marketing/admissions director.

Both centers have agreed to serve as drop-off sites for new and lightly used footwear to share with youths ages 2-18.

Minton also is looking into a shoe voucher program through WalMart’s community outreach program, but said that he will not be able to apply until July.

“We wanted to get in now, start the process now, so maybe when school starts in the fall, we will have an abundance of vouchers to give to these kids and their families,” he said.

When Brown first approached him with the project, he began looking around online for similar projects to emulate.

“I know a lot of other entities do programs like Sole to Soul (an international outreach), but don’t stay in the local area – this will stay in East Texas, and bless the children here, and I was definitely on board when Calvin told me about it,” Minton said.

No distribution date has yet been set, but Brown said he hoped that over the next two months people will see flyers about the drive and be inspired to donate from their closets.

“We would love for people to to see this and grab a message, and really want to help,” he said, adding that the project seems to be generating excitement at this early stage. “They are ready to just contribute.”

Added Minton: “I’d really like to see this really take off, and see just how many kids we can bless – we can start something and cultivate it, and watch it grow.

“Sometimes, people just need a little nudge, but Jacksonville is so good” about supporting projects helping those in need, he said. “The need is really there, and if we can fill the void, kids won’t be worrying about needing shoes. We can just let our kids be kids.”

Brown agreed.

“It will be a blessing to people in our city,” he said. “We understand that times get hard, and people sometimes need something just to lift them up.”

In Jacksonville, Bonner Street Plaza – located at 321 S. Bonner St. – and The Plaza, at 1401 Rice Road in Tyler are designated drop-off sites for new and slightly used shoes.

Or, contact project coordinators Calvin Brown, 903-372-6080, or Daniel Minton, 903-830-5407.

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