A Global Giving Moment December 3, 2019
GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.
Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.
This year, we are supporting Keep Your Kids in Shoes (KYKS) ministry, an outreach ministry of Friends in Christ Lutheran Church in Morris, Illinois. So far this year KYKS has given away 205 pairs of shoes for a total (since August 2011) of 2,924 pairs of brand-new, name-brand shoes to children in their community.
Friends in Christ Lutheran Church is one of our own LCMS Congregations here in the Northern Illinois District who are helping the children in their community. Known as “We Do Feet”, Friends in Christ has been providing free children’s shoes to the community since 2013.
It’s a huge commitment. And no small “feat” either! Won’t you partner with us in supporting their ministry this GivingTuesday? The LCMS Northern Illinois District will be matching the first $2,000 in donations.
We Do Feet
On shoe distribution day at Friends in Christ Lutheran Church, Morris, Illinois, a 7-year-old girl is admiring the sneakers she’s just put on her feet. The volunteer working with her asks how they feel, and the little girl smiles but then hesitates, looking up at the volunteer with wide eyes and a dubious expression.
“Are these my shoes? I can keep these?” she asks. When the volunteer tells her yes, the shoes are hers to keep, she jumps up from the chair and exclaims, “I’ve never had new shoes before!” Pretty soon she is running around the church, shouting “They’re new, they’re mine, they make me run faster!”
Families preregister (noting their children’s expected shoe sizes) and prequalify through We Care of Grundy County. Fittings take place in early August and then the shopping so the children can be ready for a new school year.
Way to Serve Community Children
“A group of folks at church wanted to do something for kids in the area, maybe give them something they could go back to school with,” Vicki Kahn remembers. “Someone with one of the agencies in town said ‘kids always need shoes.’ And that’s how it got started.”
Keep Your Kids in Shoes (KYKS) is supported primarily by the congregation, notes Rev. Mark Willig, pastor at Friends in Christ since 2013. He estimates the congregation’s annual outlay to be approximately $8,000. “It’s a huge commitment,” he says. Friends of Christ is a small church (less than 230 members) in a small town (population 13,636 by the 2010 Census).
By a Small, but Growing Church
Despite these numbers, Friends in Christ is growing. Willig says that since September 2015, the church has welcomed at least one new member each month. And Willig feels that KYKS has a lot to do with it.
“We have had a baptism, two confirmations (mother and daughter) and a very mission-focused family join our congregation as a result of this ministry,” he says. “We’ve also had others who’ve seen the work of our church and our caring, say what a friendly group we are, and start coming to worship.”
‘We Do Feet’ Helps Spread the Word
As the lead shopper for KYKS, Kahn scours sales, uses coupons and department store cash, and accepts donations from outside sources. In the past, KYKS received donations ranging from 100 pairs of shoes from a Lutheran church to a check for $100 from a woman in the community who wanted to support KYKS’s work.
Aside from the occasional mention in the church newsletter—and members marching in the annual Morris Cornfest parade sporting KYKS T-shirts with “We Do Feet” across the back—news of their ministry spreads mostly through word of mouth.
For Kahn, the best part is shoe distribution day. “The whole congregation shows up to help—little kids all the way up to the seasoned adults,” she says. “And we’ve all gotten to know each other better through this ministry. Sometimes I think we have gotten the most blessing out of giving the shoes away.”