Last week we explored Memphis Recovery Centers, which is helping adolescents and adults fight drug and alcohol addiction. This week, in light of our Samaritans Feet Shoe Distribution coming up on Thursday, Jan. 17, let us discuss the annual event and spotlight the organization working to help people around the world who go without shoes each day: Samaritans Feet International.
Over the last three years the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club has teamed with the Memphis Grizzlies and their charitable foundation to kick off the New Year by hosting a Samaritans Feet Shoe Distribution. The event has become the launch pad for a National Day of Service, which commemorates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who dreamed of people of diverse backgrounds coming together to help those in need. It is fitting that Memphis tips off this 20-city unified effort of community service tied to MLK Day.
On Jan. 17 more than 100 volunteers from different backgrounds will join us in the Grand Lobby of FedExForum from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., as we wash the feet of more than 300 youth, providing them with new socks and shoes. Children have already been pre-registered, based on need, from various organizations, like Memphis Athletic Ministries and Girls Inc. Volunteers will be corporate leaders and business owners, U.S. Navy sailors, Memphis Grizzlies players, educators, government officials and nonprofit workers. Each year it is inspirational to see so many people coming together, demonstrating such an act of servant leadership and compassion.
Around the world, nearly 300 million people go without shoes each day and millions are plagued with foot-borne illnesses that may be preventable by simple protection – shoes. This reality is not just confined to third-world countries. We have many kids here in Memphis that do not have shoes or are wearing shoes two to three sizes too small for their growing feet. More than the blessing of a new pair of shoes, though, the Samaritans Feet event offers an opportunity to share a message of hope, compassion and love. Volunteers symbolically wash the kids’ feet, talk and play with them, and let them know we care about their future. Many children walk away saying it was the best day of their life – and volunteers say the same!
Manny Ohonme, founder of Samaritans Feet, will be with us to share his personal story. Growing up in Nigeria, a missionary gave him his first pair of shoes at age 9. Those shoes allowed him to learn to play basketball, which ultimately earned him a college scholarship and a corporate career. In 2003, he started Samaritans Feet and his organization has since blessed around 4 million children in more than 62 nations. Visit www.samaritansfeet.org to learn more or contact me if you would like to volunteer on Jan. 17.
Jeremy Park, director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter (@lpbreakfastclub) and Facebook (facebook.com/lpbreakfastclub).