PEÑITAS, Texas – Kneeling on one knee, Paola Mendoza slides a new pair of shoes on a young girl’s feet. A squeal erupts from the preschooler as she jumps out of her mother’s lap in celebration of her new footwear.
Mendoza, 16, smiles. It’s hard not to, she admits, when she sees the child’s joy.
“I like coming here because it’s a blessing to see the little kids with their shoes in their hands and backpacks on their backs,” she says. “It’s such a blessing.”
Mendoza is part of a group of local volunteers who distributed about 500 pairs of shoes and backpacks to area children in need Oct. 18. The footwear was donated by a family through Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls, and the families have earned the shoes and backpacks by being involved in classes at the Buckner Family Hope Center.
Most of the families earn less than $11,000 annually and have four or five children, says Javier Perez, manager of Buckner Missions and Humanitarian Aid. They often struggle to pay bills and meet basic necessities. New shoes are seen as luxury items for their children.
“There’s all kinds of impact that a simple pair of shoes can have,” he says. “Each of these families has an average of five children. This effort is saving them roughly $200. Additionally, these families see volunteers who have taken time off to help. They see people who care about them. That goes a long way in sharing the love of Christ.”
Several of the volunteers, including Mendoza, participate in Family Hope Center programs. They have been helped by the center and have seen their community come together and improve.
Family Hope Center Director Ricardo Brambila beams as he watches the local volunteers serve their neighbors. They value where they live and believe they can have a positive impact upon it.
“It doesn’t matter how much you make or where you live, you can give back to your community,” he says. “We’re trying to build into the youth leadership the notion of community service. They know to serve their community. That’s part of community pride.”
For Mendoza, volunteering is a natural outgrowth of caring about the people around her. This community is where she lives; this is where she belongs.
“Home is a place where people help each other and where people feel comfortable,” she says. “That’s my home.”
John Hall is the associate director for public relations for Buckner International. Get in touch with him at jhall[at]buckner[dot]org.
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