Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Free Shoes of Hope in Atlanta

City of Refuge in Atlanta, in partnership with Soles4Souls, is giving out over 10,000 pairs of new shoes for their friends in the community. In the coming months, City of Refuge will mobilize volunteers to distribute all of the shoes into the neighborhoods in the surrounding areas.

Yesterday, at 10:00 AM people started to line up, waiting for a free pair of shoes. Workers and volunteers handed out hundreds of new shoes to those in need.

"Yes, it's just a pair of shoes, but behind that is a little bit of hope," said Steve Grimes of City of Refuge.

Seven years ago, when Grimes started working for the non-profit group City of Refuge, a homeless man asked him for a pair of shoes.

"He looked terrible," Grimes remembers. "And he said, 'Can you help me with a pair of shoes?' And I took my shoes off and gave them to him."

Now, he helps sort through 10,000 pair. The boxes are piled around him, waiting for delivery.

"The people who come here, we'll give them a new pair of shoes and ask them to donate their old shoes which will be recycled."

Soles4Souls made the delivery to the epicenter of poverty where City of refuge is located. The neighborhood along Joseph E. Boone has the city's highest violent crime rate, twice the national average of new HIV cases, and the highest number of parolees in any zip code in Georgia.

Executive Director, Bruce Deel, says the space was donated. The brick buildings are filled with volunteers and service centers, including a kitchen that trains young people to cook.

"It happens to be in one of the toughest neighborhoods not just in our city, but statistically, in the state of Georgia. We think that's providential that we're located right in the heart of a lot of need," Deel says.

The City of Refuge has seen a steady increase in those looking for help in the last year. They help families in times of crisis with food, clothing, shelter, and job training. As the unemployment rate rises in Georgia, more people are asking for help.

Together, the small group of volunteers wipes away sweat as they sort through the boxes that hold more than shoes.

"These shoes give somebody a little bit of hope," Grimes says. "It's all those little things we do that have a cumulative effect on people's lives."

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