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500 shoes delivered to kids at Koontz Elementary

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY – About 500 new shoes were delivered to students at Koontz Elementary School Thursday by a nonprofit that has given millions of shoes to children worldwide.

Samaritan’s Feet visited Isenberg Elementary School a year ago and returned to Rowan County with the same kind of distribution at Koontz. Employees and volunteers showed up, washed kids feet, gave them new socks and shoes and sent them on their way. Every child, Pre-K through fifth grade, was given a pair.

Principal Nicole Buckner said this was the first time Koontz has received shoes from Samaritan’s Feet, and said it was a positive experience.

“The kids are loving it. There’s lots of smiles entering and coming out of the room,” Buckner said.

A few students had never owned a new pair of shoes or a pair that fit properly. There were shoes in all colors, sizes and themes. One girl was given a pair of “Frozen” shoes, for instance. 

This is the 11th event Samaritan’s Feet Regional Director Phil Campbell said he has been to this year. His work recently took him to Alabama and Washington, D.C. Thursday’s event was made possible by a grant from the Margaret C. Woodson Foundation. Samaritan’s Feet is not connected to the Boone-based humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse.

Campbell shared that, unbeknownst to Buckner at the time, there would be about 75 shoes left over for the school to use as needed.

Campbell spent 22 years in the insurance business and began his work with the organization as a volunteer and financial supporter. He never expected to become the first full-time employee of Samaritan’s Feet 15 years ago. He first met Samaritan’s Feet founder Manny Ohonme at a breakfast for Christian men.

“He shared with us what the Lord laid on his heart to do,” Campbell said. “I knew I had to help him.”

Ohonme was born and raised in Nigeria. He was nine when he received his first pair of shoes. The nonprofit distributes shoes to needy children across the globe. Campbell described the experience of giving shoes to children in rural, impoverished parts of Africa — where some of the children have never had any shoes to wear at all.

“It is unbelievable,” Campbell said, adding that it’s impossible to forget the expression on a child’s face when he or she puts the shoes on.

“Shoes are something we take for granted in America,” Campbell said. “But we’ve already served five kids here today that had on a pair of shoes two sizes too small.”

There were more than a dozen groups that took part in the distribution. Life Church Connections Director Brittney Wagner was one of the volunteers and said it was great to see community churches and organizations come together because of the local need.

“It’s always amazing, No. 1, to get to sit across from a child, to tell them that they’re worthy, to tell them that they are special, to hear them talk about their dreams, their hopes, things they love about school.” Wagner said. “But also we got to crack open a couple of kids and hear about the hard parts of their life outside of the building.”

If the volunteers saw a kid that did not seem happy with their shoes, Wagner said, volunteers would ask them what pair they really wanted.

“Every student needs some time with an adult to be able to have a conversation and build relationships,” Buckner said. “That’s what we’re all about at Koontz: time with our students and building those positive relationships with them.

Last year, the nonprofit performed about 200 distributions in the U.S. and took 25 mission trips. The group has distributed shoes to children in more than 80 countries.

The organization’s website cites a few figures about global poverty, including that 736 million people in the world can not afford education or basic clothing and more than 1.5 billion people are infected with diseases transmitted via contaminated soil.

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