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Shoes for homeless children

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By Patricia A. Woodburry

It all started with an Ice Cream Social at Joy Lutheran Church on Saturday, April 25, when approximately 100 people attended to enjoy the ice cream and give to a worthy cause of providing shoes for the homeless children of Marion County. This event also included entertainment by the Cherrywood Songbirds, who contributed not only their talent but also money.

For the past six years the Thrivent committee from JOY Lutheran Church have had this project of collecting money for the shoes. This year, Ida Spong chaired the project and netted $800, from the ice cream social, for which Thrivent Financial for Lutherans matched $400. In addition the committee, through the efforts of Linda Jacobs, wrote a grant to Thrivent, which was approved for an additional $1,200. (Thrivent is a faith-based, nonprofit organization with a mission to improve the quality of life of members, their families and their communities.) Also, to be sure there was enough money to purchase 200 pairs of shoes, which was the committee’s goal, a church member donated another $200.

On July 20, Ida Spong, along with George Spong, Bert and Georgia Adams and Loretta Kremer purchased the shoes, at a great savings, from Famous Footwear, who has been putting aside shoes for this project for the past couple months. Each box was opened and inspected, for sizes and type; to be sure they were appropriate for the children and certainly ones they would like.

The group then delivered the shoes to Suzanne McGuire, Homeless Children Liaison in the Social Work Services Department of Marion County Public Schools. The Homeless Children and Youth Program is a result of a federal legislation related to educating students experiencing homelessness. The children are identified when they enroll in school and the program provides them with their basic needs (school supplies, clothing, personal hygiene items, emergency food) so they can go to school, learn and grow. The program services 1700 homeless children and youths in Marion County.

McGuire works very closely with the schoolteachers, social workers and guidance counselors who help to identify the children as to their specific needs. McGuire will receive a referral form requesting shoes for a specific child. Each referred child receives a pair of sneakers and a pair of dress shoes. Suzanne also works closely with the Salvation Army and Brothers’ Keepers to identify families in need.

The staff at the Homeless Program was thrilled to receive the donation of shoes, even though the 200 boxes filled up their office space. The members from Joy were just as pleased, as evidenced by their smiles, to be able to participate in such a worthwhile project.