Starting on the right foot: ES Rotary hosts back-to-school shoe giveaway Aug. 11
By Samantha Jones
Eureka Springs Rotary Club is continuing the tradition of service above self with its annual back-to-school giveaway this weekend.
Rotary partners with Samaritan's Feet to offer the shoe giveaway from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, in the Eureka Springs High School cafeteria. All Carroll County students who qualify for free or reduced school lunches are eligible to receive a new pair of shoes and socks to starts the school year. Rotary members will be on hand to distribute the shoes, along with Eureka Springs High School Rotary Interact Club students and members of the Krewe of Krazo.
Rotarian Cathy Handley said she worked with Samaritan's Feet while serving on a mission trip in Africa six years ago. She brought the idea to Rotary, Handley said, and the rest is history.
"I brought it back to the club and they all jumped on board with me," Handley said. "They've stood behind me and that's how we got where we are today. I love Rotary."
Rotary is all about service above self, Handley said.
"To take on a project I brought from another country and for them to say, 'We want to help you get this going' is so heartwarming for me," Handley said. "If you haven't come to the event, you should –– because you can't believe the difference it makes in these kids' lives until you're there."
Last year, Handley said, Rotary gave away almost 400 pairs of shoes and the club expects to hand out even more this year.
“We've had so many calls about it," Handley said. "Maybe the need is greater this year than last. We have 450 pairs to give away, and we can get more if we need to."
Some families have five or more children, Handley said, and that's why the shoe giveaway is so important. She said Rotarians and volunteers sit down with the children and talk to them as they are fitted for a new pair of shoes.
"It's a lot of one-on-one talks with the kids getting heard," Handley said. "No one feels embarrassed. They're so proud when they walk out. Most of them have tears in their eyes, as do we."
Handley said she appreciates the help of the high school students at the event. In addition to volunteering at the giveaway, she said, Rotary Interact students donated $1,500 to provide more shoes for kids in need.
"The kids are amazing with the little ones. They make them feel comfortable," Handley said. "Everybody pitches in. It's a good time for everyone, and it's a great way to start school."
Samaritan's Feet partners with a different company each year, Handley said, to distribute shoes every kid will recognize. It costs Samaritan's Feet about $12 to $15 per pair, Handley said, because of the partnership.
"Each year, a big company helps us get them at a lower cost," she said.
Samaritan’s Feet is an international organization that has served about 7 million people worldwide. The group’s founder, Manny Ohonme, is a Nigerian man who started the organization 15 years ago. Ohonme began Samaritan’s Feet after he had an experience with a missionary that changed his life.
During Samaritan’s Feet events, Handley said, volunteers wash children’s feet in reference to Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Rotary raises most of the money for the shoes through its annual Victorian Classic, she said.
"It's fitting people run for shoes we give away," Handley said. "Please support our Victorian Classic, because it supports those kids' feet."
The giveaway serves all children in Carroll County, Handley said.
"We don't turn anyone away and we don't ask any questions when they come," she said. "It's open to everyone. And if we run out of shoes, we'll take their names down and get them shoes."