August 25, 1999

Texans step up to give
shoes for Russian kids

___By Russ Dilday
___Buckner News Service
___DALLAS--On the heels of strong media support, Texans have stepped up in phenomenal numbers to spur on a drive by Buckner International Services for Children to gather thousands of shoes for Russian orphans.
___After a plea from Buckner asking for help with its "Shoes for Russian Souls" project, several television, radio and print media outlets publicized the need, sending hundreds to
JOHNATHON NORTON, 12, a student at Bethany Elementary School in Plano, shows off rows of boxes containing shoes he and fellow classmates at Bethany have collected for children living in Russian orphanages. Bethany students already have collected more than 300 pairs of shoes for the "Shoes for Russian Souls" project sponsored by Buckner International Services for Children and Children's HopeChest. (Photo by Scott Collins)
collection points across Texas. Following an initial report in the Baptist Standard, dozens of churches also responded to the story, establishing collection sites for the shoes and donating money for distribution and purchasing more footwear.
___Buckner International Services, in partnership with Children's HopeChest of Colorado Springs, Colo., is seeking to reach its goal of collecting more than 10,000 pairs of donated shoes, socks and shoestrings by the end of the month. The project seeks donations of new children's shoes from individuals, corporations, churches, Sunday School classes and others.
___Valley View Center in Dallas has been established as a central collection point for the drive. Amy Norton, director of Buckner International Services, said during the first two weeks of collection at Valley View, volunteers counted and sorted more than 1,000 pairs of donated shoes.
___Norton noted shoes are critical for Russian children--information she has received first-hand. She and her husband, David, adopted their 12-year-old son, Johnathan, from a Russian orphanage three years ago.
___"More than 600,000 children reside in Russian orphanages, and they are in desperate need," she said. "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."
___It is the still-fresh memory of that desperate need that has caused Johnathan Norton to challenge his classmates at Bethany Elementary School in Plano to donate shoes for the project. In little more than a week's time, more than 300 pairs had been dropped off at the school.
___Johnathan said he initiated the school's drive "so the other children in Russia have a pair to wear" and he said it makes him "feel happy" because his classmates "feel the same way I do" about the need to provide Russian orphans with new shoes.
___He explained that when the shoes are distributed in Russia in November, the children living in the orphanages "will feel like it's Christmastime. Usually, you have to take care of them (shoes) or you get in trouble. You have to stay with those shoes until they get small or get holes in them."
___Churches also are serving as collection points. Jeff Byrd, associate pastor for missions at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, said the congregation collected several hundred pairs of shoes in the first two weeks.
___The largest single donation in the first weeks of the drive came from the Justin Boot Co. of Fort Worth, which contributed more than 1,300 pairs of western boots and work boots.
___Buckner designated August as the "intensive period" of shoe collection.
___For detailed directions and drop-off times or for collection information outside the Dallas area, contact the Buckner International Services offices by phone at (214) 388-1442 or by mail at 4830 Samuell Blvd., Dallas 75228.
___Donated items should be for children, ages 2 through 18 and, due to customs regulations, the shoes and socks should be 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, a $25 gift will allow Buckner to buy a new pair of shoes and cover distribution costs.
___A team of volunteers will travel to Russia Nov. 11-21 to distribute the shoes and socks. Norton said volunteers still are needed for the team and invited individuals to participate.


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