USA (MNN) — The "nation’s largest Christmas party for the homeless" took place last Saturday in the United States outside the Dallas Convention Center in Texas.
The 8th Annual Christmas Gift 2011, supported by Buckner International, draws thousands of homeless each year waiting to get gifts, new clothes, haircuts, warm meals, socks, and shoes.
“We were told that some people even came Friday night and camped out to make sure they had a good spot in line,” says Brittany Sumrall, a volunteer coordinator with Buckner International. “This event fills such an important need in our community.”
Once the homeless entered the doors, which open at 8:30 a.m., they had the option of going to the foot washing station. There, volunteers kneeled before rows of chairs set up to literally follow Christ’s command to wash the feet of others.
One volunteer confessed, "I was nervous about signing up for foot washing, but I felt it was where I should spend my time. I’m so glad I went through with it. It’s been emotional and life changing."
It took more than 3,000 volunteers to pull off the whole event, and they were able to serve over 8,000 homeless people. Buckner played a specific role in donating more than 4,500 new pairs of shoes to the cause this year.
This event was started by Operation Care International to reach out to homeless and impoverished children. Buckner jumped on board and started donating shoes to the cause in 2004.
Susie Jenning, founder of Operation Care, says that Buckner’s shoe donations were invaluable. "The shoes provided an incredible help to this ministry. They are the lifeline in the foot washing area."
Buckner's focus on clothing the feet of those in need is seen through their own ministry, Shoes for Orphan Souls. This outreach has collected and distributed 2.2 million pairs of shoes to 74 different countries since its start in 1999. Of these shoes, 20% go to children and families in the U.S.
The shoe donation to the 8th Annual Christmas Gift 2011 was a success, according to Mike Julian, logistics manager for the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid. "Every guest that needed a pair of shoes received a pair of shoes. That is a blessing!"