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Footwear Festival Bears Fruit for Bare Feet

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="495" caption="Pfifer and Finley Chastain helped raise more than 300 pairs of shoes for children in need."][/caption]

By Lauren Hollon
Buckner International

At 5 years old, Pfifer Chastain decided to give up her sixth birthday party in favor of a shoe drive for orphans in need. She and her family threw a backyard carnival with the goal of raising 100 pairs of shoes.

“We had everything,” said Heather Chastain, Pfifer’s mother. “A basketball toss, milk bottle throw, duck pond, balloon pop, a putt-putt golf game, a face painter, a fire engine, balloon animals, hot dogs, popcorn and drinks. People earned tickets just like a street carnival and redeemed them for prizes.”

They posted invitations around town, in the elementary schools, the Walmart shoe department and Payless ShoeSource, and invited their church’s Wednesday night children’s ministry.

“We wanted it to be as much about the shoes as it was an outreach to get the community to come together to support a Christian organization,” Chastain said.

They did come together. Payless ShoeSource offered a 10 percent discount to customers buying shoes for the carnival after hearing about Pfifer’s project. The newspaper’s editor wrote a feature story and a letter challenging the community to rally around the idea. Even the carnival clown was excited.

“He knew somebody who worked at a Stride Rite store in Shreveport,” Chastain said. “They corporately donated 100 pairs of shoes and sent them to us to process and get to Buckner.”

She said the key to planning the carnival was keeping it simple.

“All in, including the processing of the shoes and getting them ready to send to Buckner, it probably took maybe 20 to 25 hours to plan and execute. The neat thing was, really it seemed to come together pretty easily,” she said.

“We kept it really low-key and got the kids involved. They made all the carnival signs and decorations, so it had a very homemade feel to it.”

The carnival took place last November. Within four hours, they had more than 200 guests in attendance and raised 336 pairs of shoes.

“To watch Pfifer line up those shoes and see it all become reality was a really important thing for her, and for our whole community,” said Emily Prevost, director of community ministries for Buckner in collaboration with First Baptist Church of Marshall.

“It went from an abstract thought about orphans needing shoes to a concrete reality that she was really able to do something about it,” Prevost said.

When it was all over, Pfifer asked her mom what an orphan was, exactly.

“I told her they were children who didn’t have mommies or daddies to live with,” Chastain said. “She told me, ‘Next year let’s forget the shoes and get them parents!’”

To learn more about how to be a part of the Shoes for Orphan Souls Birthday Club, visit http://www.shoesfororphansouls.org/birthdayclub.shtml.

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