Friday, June 19, 2009

Woman's Life Inspires Massive Shoe Drive

More than a year after her passing, Mary Sumner is still remembered for many reasons.

Her spunk and energy, even into her 80s, inspired those who knew her — especially at Sumner’s home church of Blue Ridge Chapel in Hillsville, VA.

Finding a way to honor Sumner, who served as director of the New River Baptist Women’s Ministry and WMU for several years, was as easy as taking off a shoe.

“Anyone who knew Mary Sumner remembers her vivaciousness and contagious happiness, her love for little dressy high heels, and her love and support for missions. After her death, the women of the New River Baptist Association tried to think of a way to honor her,” said Evelyn Beamer, a member of both the NRBA and Blue Ridge Chapel. “After learning about Soles4Souls and its mission of providing shoes — new or gently used — to people all over the world in need of shoes, it seemed like the perfect fit.”

The effort culminated June 17 with the delivery of 977 pairs of shoes to Virginia Produce, where the shoes were readied to be shipped to Soles4Souls’ world headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.

Beamer said the effort began during the annual meeting of the New River Baptist Association WMU and Women’s Ministry, when the group agreed to sponsor a shoe drive for Soles4Souls during the month of May in honor of Sumner. In total, nine different churches and a beauty salon contributed shoes to the cause.

“We appreciate everybody’s thoughtfulness in getting shoes to us and in getting us new shoes,” said Mary Ann Combs, a member at Blue Ridge Chapel. “Some were new shoes and that was so impressive. It just shows what a good kind of people Carroll County has got.”

Beamer and other organizers were overwhelmed by the amount of shoes the churches were able to collect in a little over a month’s time. She said it was just as amazing to see what transpired during a Sunday morning church service on May 31 at Blue Ridge Chapel. That day, Pastor David Moore caught the congregation offguard when he invited people to leave the shoes they were wearing at the altar and to think about people who didn’t have shoes as they left church barefoot. Moore was the first to leave his shoes at the altar. By the end of the service, 37 other people had left their shoes.

“It was amazing how many people left their Sunday shoes at the altar. And it was a sacrifice because it was their good shoes,” Beamer said. “Most of them have been really good shoes.”

Church members know Sumner would be excited by the mission, especially if she could have seen the room at Blue Ridge Chapel that housed the shoes, a room so full you could barely open the door.

“Mary would be so proud,” said Combs. “One thing she loved so good was her high heel shoes. Every time we paired up a pair of high heels, I thought of her. I think she would be so pleased we did that in her honor.”

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