This year’s Shoes 4 the Soul event, hosted by Appalachian Ministries at University of the Cumberlands, provided new tennis shoes, socks, and hygiene items – not to mention a fun, memorable day – for more than 600 children from five local schools.
Some of the kids walked into the event a bit shy, keeping to themselves. But by the time they left, all of them were wearing brand-new socks and shoes, carrying a drawstring bag full of essential hygiene items like toothpaste and soap, and grinning from ear to ear. Shoes 4 the Soul is a favorite campus event that local schoolchildren and the Cumberlands community look forward to every year. Even the UC freshmen, who aren’t usually familiar with ministry events involving foot-washing and giving away shoes, get in on the action.
Layla Moody, a freshman at UC said, “This is a good opportunity. It’s a unique event; it’s something you don’t really think about. I think a lot of kids need this, and it is a bit of stress relief for their families.”
Carmen Martinez, another freshman and a friend of Layla’s, added, “I think the event plants a seed in these kids’ hearts. Kids have a soft spot in my heart. I love kids. I think whenever you do something for a kid that shows them that someone other than their parents cares for them, it shows them Jesus’ love. It’s a way of planting that seed.”
CeJay Jones, a teacher at Whitley Central Intermediate, said his students ran out of the classroom and wouldn’t stop talking on the bus ride to Cumberlands’ campus on their way to the event. Though he acknowledged that some of the excitement comes from simply being energetic kids and from enjoying the rare luxury of spending part of the school day outside the classroom, he said a portion of the happiness is because the event touches the hearts of the children.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for our students to have something nice done for them and be around people who care and are trying to make a difference,” CeJay said.
Children are chosen by their elementary school's Family Resource Officers, who are familiar with the families in school that are facing financial struggles and are thus chosen to attend Shoes 4 the Soul.
Appalachian Ministries (AM) uses donations to fund the event. To steward their funding wisely, AM does their best to finds deals that don't sacrifice quality. For instance, Shoe Sensation in Williamsburg, KY, offered a bulk discount on the shoes needed for this year’s Shoes 4 the Soul. Lane Roberts, a sophomore at UC, helped load the boxes and transport them to the school. The annual event has special meaning for him.
"I grew up in this area," said Lane. "I've been the kid who sometimes didn't have new shoes at the beginning of the school year. Giving these kids new shoes helps them with their self-esteem and confidence."
Hannah Baldauff, a graduate assistant at Cumberlands, said, "It's a very humbling experience. It's interesting because we have the perspective of Christ, who washed his disciples' feet, but there are people washing kids' feet who don't know that story. They don't even know they're exemplifying Christ's love, but they are. The Gospel is intermingled in this event."
In addition to giving shoes to kids in need, the event exemplified the Gospel to 600 children and more than 100 volunteers.
Shoes 4 the Soul is one of many community service opportunities that Cumberlands students get involved in every year, to benefit the local community while exercising humility and learning leadership through service. To learn more about University of the Cumberlands’ community service and ministry programs, visit www.ucumberlands.edu/student-life.