May 23, 2008


Got some ‘sole’ to spare? Be a Good Samaritan

You have read the stories of how Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis head basketball coach Ron Hunter gave the issue—pardon the pun—some traction.

And heard and maybe even seen where Turner Network Television broadcasters Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley recently followed in Hunter’s footsteps during a National Basketball Association broadcast earlier this month.

For those needing a refresher, Hunter went barefoot during an entire IUPUI men’s basketball game on Jan. 24, and the three broadcasters went on the air sans shoes on May 11. The reason? To raise awareness for needy children around the world.

The coach and broadcasters support a program known as Samaritan’s Feet, a

Charlotte, N.C.,-based charitable organization. The mission of the non-profit, Christian-based charity is to send 10 million shoes in 10 years to children living in poverty in the United States and around the world.

Emmanuel “Manny” Ohonme, a native of Nigeria, founded the charity four years ago.

Ohonme received his first pair of shoes from a missionary in his African homeland at age 9, and his humble roots are still evident as he works toward bringing a better world to those in need.

“I am blown away by their generosity toward children they’ll never meet,” he said before going on TNT on May 11 to discuss Samaritan’s Feet and thank the broadcasters for their witness and generosity.

When it comes to helping children get something on their feet, Ohonme is not alone.

Soles4Souls also collects shoes and gives them away. Their philosophy is just as simple: Changing the world, one pair at a time.

The charitable, non-profit organization based in Nashville, Tenn., is the work of Wayne Elsey, who, in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that hit southeast Asia, felt compelled to do something to help victims.

Elsey, then an executive at a large shoewear company, was home one night watching TV, and he saw a picture of a single shoe washing up on the shore. That triggered some phone calls to other executives in the shoewear industry, and the subsequent donation of more than 250,000 shoes to victims in the devastated countries.

In 2005, Elsey called the same group of friends, and more than 1 million pairs of shoes were sent to the Gulf Coast communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

A year later, Soles4Souls was formally created.

The organization has created National Barefoot Week to be held from June 1-7. A national barefoot day will take place on Sunday, June 1, with various events across the country scheduled for the rest of the week.

Soles4Souls representatives are asking church congregations to take off their shoes as they leave Sunday services, box the shoes and ship them to their closest Soles4Souls warehouse to benefit the needy.

According to Elsey, the organization is also working hard to highlight the environmental benefits of turning in shoes as opposed to throwing them away.

“A sad fact is that there are 300 million children in the world who have never owned a pair of shoes, while the same number of shoes were tossed into American landfills last year,” he said on the Soles4Souls Web site. “We want to give people a reason to clean out their closets and help needy people while reducing the strain on our landfills at the same time.”

Though we are neither encouraging nor discouraging congregations to take off their shoes on Sunday, June 1, for this worthwhile cause, we are asking that people of faith give serious thought to supporting one or both of these worthwhile organizations.

Visit or to learn how you, your family and even your business can do its part.

What these charities are teaching is a message that we as a Gospel people can give traction to: We can all make a difference—in this case—one pair of shoes at a time.

—Mike Krokos

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