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Church outfits kids with new shoes, full bellies

Church outfits kids with new shoes, full bellies

DeLAND -- Trinity UMC has a long history of serving the Lord through giving. And it never stops.

The church has held a community breakfast ministry for several years, made possible through grants the congregation applied for and received. Offered every fourth Friday of the month, the ministry has blossomed to include 70 to 120 people attending each session. The ministry leader is Lana Saxon, a former middle school teacher, who wanted to do more.

The idea came to her to provide sneakers to children who attend Citrus Grove Elementary School and live in neighborhoods surrounding a site where the church plans to relocate. The congregation embraced the idea and dubbed the program “Sneakers 4 Kids.”

“One morning God put into my mind: sneakers,” Saxon said. “When that school opened five years ago, we were in the process of doing backpacks and then formed sort of an alliance with the school, giving them money for children’s field trips for the children who could not afford them.  The school is 70 percent [of students eligible for federal] Title One, meaning free breakfasts and free lunches are given to many students.

Kids peering into gift bags at Trinity UMC

Young recipients of new shoes check out the contents of gift bags they received at the Sneakers 4 Kids event at Trinity UMC, DeLand. Photos from Lana Saxon.  

“I have just felt that God has led me into things and started projects in touch with our church,” Saxon said. “God has put things in my heart through the years. I love it when our church gets together and does something for a common cause.”

Upon contacting and working with the school staff, volunteers collected shoe sizes for children who wanted sneakers. The church raised $1,500 to match a grant from the Florida Conference-administered Alice W. Lockmiller endowment, making a total of $3,000 available for shoe shopping.

Socks were donated, as were other items such as toys and stuffed animals to give as prizes and use as table centerpieces. Each child’s bag contained shoes, a pair of socks, a couple of other items and a lollipop. The children were entertained during the Sept. 19 event at the church with games and coloring. The children and their families also received lunch.

The Citrus Grove Elementary School’s mascot is an eagle. Saxon shared with the children her favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

“We talked about eagles and how now they [the children] can run like the wind in their new sneakers,” Saxon said.  

Saxon reflected on one touching story about a boy who has been bullied at school and had lost five members of his family this year, according to his mother.

“He came up to me and said, ‘Thank you. You are a very nice lady. I never had a shoe with a cushion in it.’ Then he ended up winning a stuffed bear from the table decorations, and he walked away with that and a happy morning.” 

From backpacks and breakfasts to community help in any way, the DeLand congregation is always busy with a project, and Saxon loves the work.

“I just want to be God’s servant.”

– Brenda Eggert Brader is a freelance writer based in Winter Haven.