Rotary Club to host countywide shoe giveaway Aug. 12

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Eureka Springs Rotary Club knows how to start the school year on the right foot.

In conjunction with Samaritan’s Feet, the club will offer shoes to every child in Carroll County between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12, at Eureka Springs High School. Rotarian Cathy Handley said it’s important to get there when the event begins, saying the line will likely be long. The event is meant to be stress-free for students and their families, Handley said, and the club works hard each year to reach every person in line.

“We don’t ask for any verification about how much they make or if they really need the shoes. That’s up to them to decide,” Handley said. “They can bring any number of children. If for some reason we don’t have their size, we’ll get it to them through the food bank.”

This is the fifth year Rotary has hosted the shoe giveaway, Handley said. She remembered traveling to Africa five years ago and working with Samaritan’s Feet to give shoes to those in need, saying she was inspired by what she saw. Handley shared her story with fellow Rotarians when she got back, and her story inspired them, too.

“They asked me to talk about my trip, and all of the sudden, they were like, ‘We want to do that,’ ” Handley said. “That touched me a lot.”

Handley said the event has grown over the years and will be bigger than ever this year. Last year, she said, Rotary gave out 212 pairs of shoes. The club will have 300 pairs of shoes available this year, Handley said. Rotary raises money for the event through the Victorian Classic every year, she said, and has received donations from other community organizations including the Eureka Springs High School Rotary Interact Club. Joanie Kratzer, the club’s advisor, said Rotary Interact donated $1,500 to Samaritan’s Feet for this year’s shoe giveaway.

“That buys a lot of shoes for children in the community,” Kratzer said. “We consider ourselves major contributors to this project.”

Rotary Interact students will join the Rotarians and other volunteers to make sure the event runs smoothly. Handley described everything volunteers have to do, saying it’s a big job. Volunteers do everything from sizing feet to washing them, Handley said.

“Some people don’t like their feet washed, and that’s OK. We don’t force it on them,” Handley said. “If they’re willing, we wash their feet. We have a lot of clergy that like to pray over the people. If the family doesn’t want that, we don’t do it, but it has touched a lot of lives.”

She continued, “It goes back to Biblical times when you washed the feet. There is some of that attached to Samaritan’s Feet, and that’s how it got started. It’s really about service above self. It’s not about what we’re going to get back. It’s just something we do, and it seems like the community really loves it.”

This is the third year junior Carson Mowrey has volunteered at the event, and he’s looking forward to it.

“It’s amazing, because you get to see these people come in and you’re able to make their day much better just by washing their feet and giving them new shoes and socks,” Mowrey said.

Sophomore Preston Hyatt agreed.

“It’s a good experience to help out other people,” Hyatt said. “Instead of just finding random shoes, you can help measure their feet and find out what size they wear.”

Senior Clover Danos said the event is special to her family.

“It means a lot to me, because my brother actually needed shoes from it last year,” Danos said. “I feel like being able to continue it to help other people is a good thing.”

“Not everyone is as gifted as others. There are some people who can’t afford shoes, and there are some people who can afford a lot more than shoes,” Hyatt said. “It’s a great thing to do to give the community what it needs.”

While the event is aimed at students, Handley said, Rotary is willing to make exceptions for adults who truly need it. She remembered when a man came to the giveaway with his kids three years ago wearing an old pair of shoes, saying Rotarians offered him a new pair of shoes, too.

“He said, ‘No, I’m too old,’ and we said, ‘You’re never too old,’ ” Handley said. “He’s come back every year wearing the same pair of shoes, so hopefully he’ll come this year and get a new pair.”

In the past, leftover shoes have been returned to Samaritan’s Feet for other events. Handley said that’s not how it’s going to be this year.

“We’re going to keep them and give them to our food banks,” Handley said. “If they had shoes, it would really help them.”

Handley encouraged everyone to come to the event, saying she looks forward to it every year.

“It just shows you what mankind can do when we put our hearts and heads together,” Handley said. “We see some of the same people every year. It’s like they’re coming home for those shoes.”

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