Samaritan’s Feet: students receive socks, shoes and caring

Published 12:10 am Monday, November 13, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — The multipurpose room at Isenberg Elementary is a sea of orange — orange shirts worn by volunteers, and orange chairs set up in pairs, one facing the other. As Isenberg students file in and are led to their seats, volunteers clap and cheer. Then, they untie the students’ shoes and begin to wash their feet.

“I’m trying to keep from crying,” Principal Marvin Moore said, standing off to the side. “I can’t help it.”

Life Church Pastor Chris Shelton agreed.

“This is beautiful,” he said, watching a volunteer slip a pair of bright pink socks and a sleek new pair of sneakers on a second-grader.

The event, known as Samaritan’s Feet, is sponsored by an organization of the same name, and aims to give every child in the school a new pair of socks and shoes. Shelton said he was contacted by the Charlotte-based non-profit a few weeks ago, asking if he knew of any schools in the area which might benefit from shoes and socks.

Shelton immediately thought of Isenberg and Moore, who had spoken at Life Church not too long before.

“And the rest is history,” he said.

When word got out about Samaritan’s Feet, dozens volunteered, making the room a hive of activity as volunteers washed feet, fetched shoes, filled foot basins with fresh water or directed students to a seat. Many were members of Life Church, Moore said, but some were school system employees or members of Man Up Monday, a local community organization.

Volunteers talked with students, asking about their day and their classes, and making sure that students got the right fit for their foot. Moore said he and another school employee had personally measured every student at Isenberg, to be sure they got the right size.

“A lot of my kids are wearing someone else’s shoe,” he explained.

But the real gift Thursday morning wasn’t the shoes — it was the way volunteers interacted with students. While some students at Isenberg come from impoverished backgrounds, Moore said, their biggest need isn’t necessarily physical.

“They really, really need someone to remind them how special they are,” he said. “…These types of gestures make a big, big difference.”

It was a need volunteers saw displayed throughout the morning. Shelia Denton said that one student had asked her, “Will you talk to me some more?”

With a smile, she did, asking him about his interests and his family; filling the brief encounter with warmth and caring.

“That’s the big thing — knowing that they’re loved,” said Chris Gratton, a Life Church member.

And students weren’t the only ones affected by the brief interactions.

“This really touches my heart,” volunteer John Deadmon said. “…We got to show these kids that there are people that care about them, that they can lead a better life.”

Moore said the number of volunteers and the sacrifices they made to be here spoke volumes.

“It says a powerful thing about where we are as a society, where we are as a city,” he said.

Shelton said he hopes students will internalize the interactions.

“The most important thing is the example volunteers are setting for the kids,” Shelton said.

Church members weren’t there to proselytize, Shelton said, but to be an example of humility and service.

“We’re here to respect boundaries,” he said, “to show kids that service is a virtue. …Hopefully they’ll take that and go and serve someone else.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.