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Volunteers needed for a surprise blessing to come full circle

By May 23, 2008

USA (MNN) — A disaster became a blessing for Buckner International's Shoes for Orphan souls.

About a month ago, a tornado ripped through an R.G. Barry shoe distribution center. Because of retail standards in the U.S., thousands of wearable shoes in dented boxes were left
unsellable. However, if a non-profit could take the shoes overseas, then they could be put to use.

With a few phone calls and connections, Shoes for Orphan Souls is now receiving truckloads of those shoes, transported by Wal-Mart. Volunteers helped unload 18-wheelers as they came in at a media event on Wednesday May 21, located at the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid near Dallas, Texas

Buckner's Rachel Garton said the typical summer shoe donations number around 100,000 pairs. "Now. we've coupled that with another 180,000 pairs of shoes coming in. So we've been blessed! But at this time, we're truly needing an influx of volunteers to be here to help sort and pack the shoes for shipping," she said.

Volunteers can come in groups or alone, and there is work for everyone. Standing and sitting work is available. This gives opportunity for Christians to be part of making evangelism possible overseas. Shoes for Orphan Souls encourages volunteers to leave notes in shoes as they go, telling the recipient who they are and that Jesus loves them.

Garton shared a statement from the President of Ethiopia, conveying just how much the work of volunteers getting shoes ready to ship makes a difference:  "Because you care about the people of our country, and you're bringing humanitarian aid, that gives you the right to be able to share the Gospel with them. Because, we truly care about them now."

With summer plans in the works for many, it's a perfect time to begin planning for a trip to the center to help.
"The shoes are packed totally by volunteers. Last year we had about 6,600 volunteers process these shoes, and if it weren't for those volunteers, the shoes would never make it to children around the world," said Garton.

If taking a trip to Texas isn't an option this summer, there are several other ways to get involved.
Shoes for Orphan Souls also offers trips to nine countries where Christians can help fit the shoes on children firsthand and share Christ's love in the process. Others can hold a shoe drive in their community to increase the number of children who are reached not only with the blessing of shoes, but the blessing of Christian love. 

The shoes being donated by R.G. Barry are primarily slippers and casual shoes, so tennis or athletic shoes are still needed. Also, additional funding is needed to pay for shipping and distributing the shoes. 

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