From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Churches collect huge quantity of shoes for Afghans

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Tue, 18 Dec 2001 15:25:02 -0600

Dec. 18, 2001  News media contact: Tim Tanton7(615)742-54707Nashville, Tenn.
By Kevin Slimp*

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - United Methodists in the church's Holston Annual
Conference have gathered more than 100,000 pairs of shoes to help Afghan

"I'll sleep a lot better this Christmas season, knowing we did something
tangible for people in such need," said Ray Chamberlain, bishop of the
Holston Conference.

Volunteers throughout the conference, working Dec. 14-15, collected shoes as
well as financial donations for children and adults living in impoverished
conditions in Afghan refugee camps. 

The outpouring of shoes and money was "absolutely overwhelming," said Anne
Travis, director of Holston's Connectional Ministries. She also was
impressed by the way volunteers showed up to pack the shoes and load the
trucks on Saturday, Dec. 15. "It's significant that people would come out to
help during such a busy time."

Travis, along with Bill Daugherty, Holston's director of missions, led the
volunteer work.

The Saturday efforts began early at Pleasant View United Methodist Church in
Abingdon, Va. The Rev. Larry Carroll, Pleasant View's pastor, worked
alongside dozens of volunteers, loading boxes onto a tractor-trailer. It
soon became apparent that one trailer would not be enough. The thousands of
shoes included donations from the Wytheville, Tazewell, Big Stone Gap,
Abingdon, Kingsport and Johnson City districts. 

The Rev. Grady Winegar, superintendent of the Kingsport District, spent
Thursday with six volunteers bagging 382 large trash bags full of shoes,
which were delivered the next day to Abingdon.

On Saturday afternoon, efforts shifted to Knoxville and Central United
Methodist Church. With the initial tractor-trailer filled in Abingdon, a
second truck had to be found quickly. Jon Bock, a member of Fairview United
Methodist Church in Maryville, came to the rescue. Bock, owner of Graebel
Van Lines, arranged for five employees to provide assistance at Central
United Methodist Church and for another tractor-trailer to be donated to
store and transport the shoes. The abundance of shoes also created a
shortage of boxes. Bock came to the rescue again, providing hundreds of
boxes for the shoes. 

When the need for more help became apparent, Central's pastor, the Rev.
Bruce Spangler, called on a nearby homeless shelter. Within minutes, several
residents of the Knox Area Rescue Mission arrived to load the truck. "These
were homeless people coming out to help others they perceived as being in
need," Travis said.

"It's incredible to imagine this all came together in three weeks," said the
Rev. Dennie Humphreys, superintendent of the Big Stone Gap District. "If the
initial appeal had come one day later, I don't think we could have gotten it
done. This was absolutely amazing."

"I think we sometimes underestimate what our members will do when impressed
with an urgent need," Daugherty said. "We find time and again that the
members of Holston respond in abundance when challenged to help persons in

The project originated with Bishop Chamberlain and Stop Hunger Now, a hunger
relief ministry, said the Rev. Ray Buchanan, a United Methodist and
executive director of the Raleigh, N.C.,-based agency. Buchanan contacted
the bishop after working with the North Carolina Annual Conference to start
collecting blankets for the refugees.

The North Carolina Conference, led by Bishop Marion Edwards, collected
between 40,000 and 50,000 blankets, Buchanan said.

Working with a State Department contract agency, Stop Hunger Now will ship
the shoes to Tajikistan, he said. There, partner agencies will distribute
the shoes to refugees in Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan, he said.

The shoes and blankets will fill 10 ocean freight containers, Buchanan said.
He estimated that the shipment has a value of about $1.5 million.

Money that was raised by the churches will be used to pay for shipping and
storage within the United States, he said. Funds that are left over will be
used for hunger relief. The amount of money raised is not known yet. The
overseas shipping will be handled by the contract agency - a value of
$100,000, Buchanan said. 

The churches' response has been phenomenal, he said. "It shows what can
happen when all of us work together. We can really make a difference."
# # #
*Slimp is director of communications for the United Methodist Church's
Holston Annual Conference, with offices in Knoxville, Tenn. Tim Tanton, with
United Methodist News Service, contributed to this report.

United Methodist News Service
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