22 years, more than 200,000 shoes, one trip to Russia
The foyer area of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, buzzed with excitement Aug. 21. Church members and attendees have grown accustomed to this special frenzy every year. For over 20 years, South Main has collected shoes to support Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®.
“It started 22 years ago by Henry and Maggie Hill after they had visited an orphanage in Russia, shared Damon Ankenman, volunteer who now organizes the shoe drive each year. “Henry was on the board with Buckner and when he came back from that trip, he organized the very first shoe drive at South Main Baptist Church.”
From 2000 to 2022
Ever since that trip to Russia, the entire church supports the shoe drive through financial donations to processing and packing the shoes. Beginning in July, Ankenman purchases shoes with the church’s donations. Once they receive the shoes, volunteers organize the shoes weekly – unpacking them, tying the laces together, matching pairs together and more.
“For unpacking days, we have about 30 people volunteer over the course of five weeks,” Ankenman said. “And for Sunday’s big event, there were about 70 kids helping at various times and nearly 50 adults at differing times.”
The packing event is a family affair every year. Children are excitedly grabbing shoes and passing bins to tables for adults and other children to package and box up the shoes. Next, a group loads the boxes into the truck. At first glance, it’s chaos. But it’s controlled chaos. Every person knows what their next task is and most importantly, why they are doing what they are doing.
In August, South Main collected nearly 7,000 shoes
This year, Buckner Shoes and South Main faced a new challenge – transportation of those shoes. Nearly 48 hours before the packing event on Sunday, Texas Baptist Men (TBM) had an available 18-wheeler. The logistics to get the truck to Houston was no easy feat.
“Kenneth Landers, who drove the truck for TBM, drove from Tyler, Texas, to Mesquite to pick up the truck and then headed south to Houston,” shared Shawn Spurrier, director of Buckner Shoes. “After all that driving, he didn’t hesitate to jump in and help process the shoes. Even more, he dropped the trailer full of shoes in Mesquite Sunday afternoon and then drove back to Mesquite two days later to help with the unload. We are so thankful for his dedication and generosity.”
Landers drove over 600 miles in one weekend and didn’t let that stop him from working alongside the volunteers on Sunday morning at South Main and helping to unpack the truck at the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
“Great things happen when God’s people work together for his purpose,” shared John Hall, director of communications at TBM. “Each of us has a role to play and we’re honored to work alongside tremendous organizations like South Main Baptist Church and Buckner International to transform the lives of children around the world.”
Instilling generosity for generations to come
While the church continues to collect record numbers of shoes, they see it as a much bigger mission.
Creating an opportunity for all generations to participate in a hands-on shoe drive creates opportunity to teach generosity from a young age in a fun, tangible way.
“Seeing people get engaged in the work of the church so willingly and with so much energy is one of my favorite things to see with mission work like this,” shared J Hill, South Main minister for missions. “And to see the impact of new shoes and what that is to someone’s dignity just impacts you.”
As generations continue to participate in the Buckner Shoes shoe drive at South Main Baptist Church, children around the world are impacted by their generosity.