Activities encourage philanthropy, meet community needs

HANCOCK COUNTY — The week of songs, activities and lessons was focused on a theme: “Walk This Way.”

And children in last year’s vacation Bible school at Trinity Park United Methodist Church walked that walk — by bringing in 150 pairs of shoes for people in need.

They’re among many youths who not only received daily lessons about caring for others during the program but also applied some of those lessons by filling needs in their community and beyond.

At Trinity Park, the 150 pairs of shoes later became 400 pairs when the rest of the congregation chipped in.

“Hosting a shoe drive is an opportunity for them to learn about global poverty, social entrepreneurship, people skills, networking, social media and just plain hard work,” Brian Granfors, communications and creative director for Soles4Souls, wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. “Collecting 400 pairs of shoes is not easy work and is often so gratifying to those who have done so!”

Every summer, organizations aimed at serving people in need benefit from the generosity encouraged by summer camps and vacation Bible schools teaching youth the joy of giving to others.

That giving takes the form of gathering food for the hungry. Children at Cross of Grace Lutheran Church in New Palestine bring food for the church’s Groceries of Grace pantry.

It also takes the form of sending cash donations abroad. Students in Hancock Reformed Baptist Church’s summer program contribute to a different missionary each year.

Still other groups meet specific practical needs. This year, children at Brandywine Community Church will contribute to World Renewal International’s Jezi Dlo (“Jesus Water”) project, which installs filtration systems to provide clean water in Haiti.

“We are excited to share with the VBS kids the need for clean water around the world, and specifically in our church communities in Haiti,” Paul Galbraith, pastor of missions and student ministry, wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.

“Access to clean water changes everything for a person and community … parents live longer and provide for their families, children are healthier and can attend school, community hygiene increases, decreasing the spread of disease, and communities develop in nearly every way.”

Soles4Souls also points to multi-faceted results of its work. The Nashville, Tennessee-based nonprofit distributes new and gently worn shoes to people who might otherwise go barefoot, providing a more sanitary journey to work or school and encouraging small business growth in developing areas. According to its website, it has distributed more than 30 million pairs of shoes in each U.S. state and 127 countries.

After the vacation Bible school youth gathered 150 pairs, Trinity Park observed Barefoot Sunday, in which members arrived shoeless and/or donated more shoes, bringing the total to 400 pairs.

“To put this in perspective, the sale of just one pair of shoes donated by our volunteers can help provide 5 meals for a family in Haiti,” Granfors wrote. “The sale of 20 pairs of shoes can provide a year’s worth of schooling for a child in Honduras.”{div}This year, students at Trinity Park will honor community servants during the “Hero Central” vacation Bible school at the church. Find a list of upcoming vacation Bible schools at area churches on Page C1.{/div}

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Anne Smith is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at