Monday, July 20, 2009

Program Provides Shoes to Kids

Mary Wanger of Rock Hill, SC said her grandkids don't have much, but the look on their faces Saturday as they put on a new pair of shoes told a different story.

To them, they had it all.

“It was a blessing to see the smiles,” said Wanger, 50. “(The shoes) aren't a $100 dollars or anything, they're just plan old simple shoes, and they're happy with them.”

Wanger, along with other families in Rock Hill, was able to get shoes for free at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, thanks to native Rock Hill native and Tennessee Titans safety Chris Hope and his partnership with Soles4Souls.

Soles4souls provided the church with 800 pairs of shoes that filled five tables Saturday, and there were still plenty of shoes left over. The shoes included name brands such as Keds and Reebox.

Tisha Burns, 30, of Rock Hill graduated with Hope at Rock Hill High School and said the drive has helped her family tremendously.

“I'm not able to afford shoes and the clothes. I'm very grateful that they were able to do this,” she said.

Hope's cousin, Nard Wylie, 35, of Rock Hill, oversaw the event and said it was Hope's idea because he wanted the church to get involved with the organization. This is the first year the church has hosted a shoe drive, but Wylie said it won't be the last. The remaining shoes will be stored away and used at the next drive.

Wylie said he hopes people will get more out of the event than the shoes.

“I hope to see that we have made it so that they can come and give back to the community. I hope to see more people like Chris. Chris is blessed and he likes to bless others,” Wylie said.

Pastor Sandra Mason said the church is here to help the community.

“Things may be good today and bad tomorrow. We're hoping that if tomorrow is not good they'll remember today and Mount Pilgrim Church,” she said.

The event was part of the church's “Friends & Family” weekend celebration. Hope grew up at Mount Pilgram Baptist and still attends when he's in the Carolinas.

For him, the drive is more than just giving away a free pair of shoes.

“Not only do they get a pair of shoes, they get the opportunity to shake hands with a national football player. Any time you put a smile on a kids face, it's something you can't replace,” he said.

Hope donates more than just his time to Souls4Shoes — he also donates $100 for each tackle made on the field. He donated more than $8,000 for his success during the 2008 season.

Though Hope got much of the attention Saturday, he stressed the event wasn't about him.

“This is not for me to get the glory. It's giving the glory to God. He blesses you. I'm just trying to drop hope,” he said. “I come from the same church, the same community. I have dreams and God is using me to help with their dreams.”

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