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Central Baptist Church nears 10,000th pair of donated shoes

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By Shelley Spillman

Rick Clark, pastor at Central Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg, keeps a pair of worn sandals made out of tire in a display case in his office to remind him of the simple comforts that others may not possess.

Clark received the sandals in 1989 on a mission to trip to Africa. His translator wore the tire sandals and he asked him about it. The translator explained that shoes are a hard to come by commodity in Africa, and they’re usually made of whatever materials are available. Clark switched shoes with his translator to ensure he had a pair of well-crafted shoes to protect his feet from the elements.

Years later, Clark saw an article in “Baptist Women’s Mission Magazine” about the Soles4Souls shoe drive to benefit impoverished people all over the world and knew he had to start a local donation drive at his church.

It started off as just something to try to see how many shoes they could raise, but as word got around and other churches and individuals got involved it blew up. Central Baptist Church is now in their fifth year of their annual Soles4Souls shoe drive and needs about 1,700 more shoes to meet their goal of a total of 10,000 donated shoes.

“We’ve become known as the shoe church,” Clark said. “I think that’s an honor. They know we are giving shoes to people who can get the most use out of it.”

At this time of year, Clark said it’s not uncommon to see people come to church on Sunday with a shoebox toted under their arm or even a trash bag full of shoes to donate.

Clark said he enjoys reading the stories on the Soles4Souls blog to learn how the shoes are impacting people’s lives. One particular story, Clark said there was family who had two children and only one pair of shoes they received from Soles4Souls. One child would go to school in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The two siblings would meet and trade off the pair of shoes so the other sibling could have shoes while in school.

“It’s a very sad situation,” Clark said.

Central Baptist has up to 18 volunteers who help every week during their annual spring shoe drive. The team has been doing it for so long that they have an effective assembly line where they meticulously dump the shoes on a table, sort them by matching pairs, rubber band the shoes together and place them in a large box.

“It’s good feeling,” said Richard Beard of participating in Soles4Souls. “It’s amazing a pair of shoes can be that beneficial.”

Beard said they get all sorts of shoes work boots, sandals and even on one occasion a $73 pair of shoes that still had the receipt in the box.

Once all the shoes are collected, Beard, who is a truck driver, delivers the shoes to Goodlettsville, Tenn. where they are packaged and prepared for delivery.

Shoes can be donated through May and dropped off 24/7 at Central Baptist Church located at 1958 127 Bypass North Lawrenceburg, KY 40342.