DALLAS (ABP) — Buckner International's Shoes for Orphan Souls ministry has collected its 2 millionth pair of shoes for needy children and families in the United States and around the world.
The long-anticipated milestone came during the 10th anniversary of Buckner's taking over the program in 1999. Started as Shoes for Russian Souls in 1995 by Dallas radio station KCBI, the program now receives shoes from all 50 states and distributes them in the United States and more than 70 other countries around the world.
The milestone donation came Sept. 1 from Crocs in partnership with Global Aid Network, a subsidiary of Campus Crusade for Christ and a long-time partner with Buckner. It was one of 60,000 pairs of brightly colored shoes sent in six 18-wheeler trucks to the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid in Dallas.
"We've had large shipments in the past, but what makes this shipment so special is that it puts us over the 2 million mark," Matthew Asato, Buckner's humanitarian-aid manager, said in a video on the Shoes for Orphan Souls website.
"Two million pairs of shoes means two million children's lives will be changed," Rachel Garton, Shoes for Orphan Souls director, said in a press release. "It means two million children will feel what it’s like to be known and loved, and to feel special."
Scott Collins, vice president of external affairs at the Baptist-affiliated social-service agency, said in parts of the world where illnesses can attack through bare feet, a pair of shoes can literally be the difference between life and death.
"A pair of shoes really does represent hope for a child," Collins said.
The first of the Crocs shipment will be delivered in early September as part of a shoe distribution trip to Vietnam. Many children there suffer from diseases that could be prevented with shoes. It is the first Buckner trip to the country.
Asato said the shoes will be processed, sorted, packed and shipped over the next few months to Guatemala, Ethiopia, Honduras and other countries.
According to UNICEF, there are 148 million orphans around the world, many in orphanages that do not receive enough funding to support the children in their care. One of the greatest and most immediate needs is shoes. Many children receive one pair of shoes to last an entire year. Others don't have any shoes at all.
Shoes for Orphan Souls meets that need by accepting donations of new shoes and/or cash and through shoe drives organized by churches, clubs and civic organizations.
Founded in 1879 as an orphan's home by Baptist minister R.C. Buckner, Buckner International now is governed by a 27-member board of trustees and has an annual budget of $74 million.
–Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.