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Samaritan’s Feet makes its way to Bremen

August 9, 2011

The Samaritan’s Feet initiative has put shoes on the feet of more than 20 million children. Photo provided

An initiative that began 28 years ago in Lagos, Nigeria has made its way to the Bremen and Nappanee area.
This year will be the first “Back to Basics” Samaritan’s Feet program hosted by Horizon Ministries and the Bremen United Methodist Church. The vision for Samaritan’s Feet spurred from a Wisconsin man who visited Nigeria and gave a nine-year-old boy, Emmanuel “Manny” Ohonme his very first pair of tennis shoes. Ohonme began competing in sports in Africa and went on to earn a full basketball scholarship from the University of North Dakota. He later became an executive for a leading technology company which he left to help impoverished people in Africa. Manny and his wife and children now live in North Carolina and have made the vision of Samaritan’s Feet grow to put 10 million pairs of shoes on 20 million little feet.
“It’s not just for those that are impoverished,” explained Jan Desmarais-Morse, who is spearheading the local mission. “There are no financial requirements. It’s just that, at this time of year every family is facing providing all the things their children need for school, and kids need two pair of sneakers — one for the school year and one for P.E. We wanted to help parents meet those needs.”
Desmarais-Morse is the wife of Pastor Jim Morse of Horizon Ministries and he said that his wife, as a counselor for Goshen Middle School, had been involved in the program at that school in the past.
“We’ve teamed up with the Bremen United Methodist Church for this,” he said,”and the goal of the local sponsoring agencies was $3,000, to provide 300 pair of shoes to give to the children of the Bremen and Nappanee Elementary schools.”
His wife explained that through the generosity of parishioners at both churches and from donations given by individual donors in the community that heard about the initiative, even without hosting any fundraisers, this first event will be more than successful. “It’s been phenomenal — the community at large who have been excited about the endeavor,” she said. “The target goal was $3,000 but we’ve raised $4,000. People have given $10; others have given $1,000 for the cause.”
Major retailers involved with the initiative offer Samaritan’s Feet the name-brand shoes at a discounted price of about $10 per pair.
Desmarais-Morse said her board members for the undertaking, Laura Anderson and Jolene Worthington (of Bremen UMC), are working “shoulder to shoulder” with her fine tuning the event which will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, for children in kindergarten through grade 5, at the Bremen Elementary-Middle School cafeteria.
“We put out feelers at the schools and sent them to the families,” Desmarais-Morse said. “If the parents were interested they send them back listing their children’s names and the shoe sizes of each. The initial response was less then we thought it would be and we wanted to reach as many children as we could. I had worked with Nikki Wiggins at Woodview Elementary and knew her heart was in the right place so we got Nappanee involved.”
The response included 45 children from Nappanee and more than 200 from Bremen. Each child that attends will also receive a pair of sports socks and a cinch-sack from Office Depot and anyone that hasn’t signed up can stop by at the end of the event.
“We won’t turn anyone away,” Desmarais-Morse explained, “but if they haven’t signed up they can stop in toward the end, and if we have shoes left in the size their children need, they are welcome to them.” Any remaining sneakers will be given to the Bremen Elementary-Middle School and any remaining funds will also be given toward children’s needs in the area.
“We want each child that comes to feel they were valued and we want the adults to encourage them to fulfill their dreams,” said Desmarais-Morse. “People are always looking for ways to help others in their community but the bottom line is, it’s all about the kids.”
To learn more about Manny and his initiative visit www.samaritansfeet.org online.

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