July 21, 1999

'Shoes for Russian Souls'
seeks Texas Baptists' help

___By Russ Dilday
___Buckner News Service
___DALLAS--Texas Baptists may not be able to walk a mile in the shoes of Russian orphans, but they are being asked to provide shoes to help these children walk into a brighter future.
___Buckner International Ministries seeks help from Texas Baptists for a project to collect thousands of shoes in August. The Shoes for Russian Souls project also needs Texas Baptist churches to serve as collection points for donated shoes, socks and shoestrings.
NEW SHOES are given to a Russian orphan by Cindy Kuykendall, a staff member of Buckner International Services for Children, who traveled to Russia in February as part of a team that distributed more than 5,000 pairs of new shoes to children living in orphanages. Buckner is asking Texas Baptists to help provide more new shoes for the project in August. (Photo by Scott Collins)
___Started in 1994 by KCBI radio station in Dallas, Shoes for Russian Souls is now coordinated by Buckner International Services for Children and Children's HopeChest, a Colorado Springs, Colo., Christian organization.
___Amy Norton, director of Buckner's International Services, said the project "has come to mean so much to these Russian children and the adults who care for them. In a land where winters are long and cold, a brand-new pair of warm shoes means so much."
___The project seeks donations of new children's shoes from individuals, corporations, churches, Sunday school classes and others Aug. 1-31. Valley View Center in Dallas has been established as a central collection location and will sponsor a special kick-off drive Aug. 5-8. For other detailed directions and drop-off times or for collection information outside the Dallas area, contact Buckner International Services at (214) 388-1442.
___Norton said Buckner designated August as the "intensive period" of shoe collection because "we're hoping that as people go to the store to buy back-to-school items for their own children, they will buy an extra pair of shoes for the Russian orphans."
___Buckner is collecting both shoes and socks for the drive. Donated items should be for children ages 2 through 18 and, due to customs regulations, the shoes and socks should be brand-new. Needed are warm shoes, tennis shoes, dress shoes and slippers. An additional $5 donation also will help with distribution costs.
___For individuals, groups or churches preferring to make cash donations, Norton noted that a $25 gift will allow Buckner to buy a new pair of shoes and cover distribution costs.
___She emphasized that the shoe collection comes at a critical time for Russian ch
RUSSIAN CHILDREN living in an orphanage proudly display their new shoes, provided by donations from the Shoes for Russian Souls project and distributed in February. More shoes are to be collected in August for distribution in Russia. (Photo by Scott Collins)
___"More than 600,000 children reside in Russian orphanages, and they are in desperate need," she explained. "One of their greatest and most immediate needs is a pair of shoes. Many children are wearing shoes that are literally falling off their feet."
___A recent Associated Press news story confirmed Norton's concerns. The June 29 story claimed that, according to Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency, the country "has at least 625,000 abandoned children--many of them deserted by impoverished or alcoholic parents--and the number is rising."
___The report also said that while about two-thirds of the abandoned children are adopted, usually by family members, "children who are not adopted are sent to orphanages, most of which are underfunded and in miserable condition."
___A team of volunteers will travel to Russia Nov. 11-21 to distribute the shoes and socks. Norton said that volunteers are still needed for the team and invited individuals or church groups to participate.

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