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Barefoot Sunday event shatters goal of shoe collection

By KBell
Feb. 27, 2011 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 26, 2011 at 8:27 p.m.

Thousands of shoes are collected, paired and put into bags at the Barefoot Sunday event in Renegade Church.

WHAT'S NEXT?One thousand of the shoes collected in Victoria will go to Malawi, and some may go with Palmer Chinchen on an upcoming trip to Haiti.

The rest of the collection will go to Kidz Connection, a Victoria school district group that helps underprivileged children.

Chinchen will take two 50-pound cases of shoes back to Arizona, and the rest will be shipped to his church in the mail.

From there, the shoes will join with others collected from around the country.

Chinchen's church, The Grove, will hand-deliver the shoes to Malawi and Haiti. Anyone interested in the mission trip is encouraged to contact him by going to www.thegroveaz.org.

One by one, dozens of volunteers lugged trash bags to the back of Renegade Church and called out numbers.

"Forty-five."

"Forty in this one."

By the time the Barefoot Sunday event had even started, the three-foot pile of trash bags had added up to more than 4,000 pairs of shoes.

"It's 6 p.m., and we're not even done counting," event organizer and Advocate faith reporter Jennifer Preyss said while surrounded by the donated shoes. "It shows what a little ripple can do in this town."

For weeks, people around Victoria have been dropping off both old and new shoes in bins around the community, with the goal of collecting 1,000 shoes to send to Malawi, Africa.

"This town is pumping for kids in Africa," Preyss said.

It was Preyss's article in the Advocate, which sponsored the event, that got 17-year-old Keaton Warren pumped to help in his own way.

"Why shoes without socks?" Keaton said he thought.

With that, he set himself a goal to collect 2,000 pairs of socks - two for each pair of shoes - to send to Africa.

"I thought I could do it with the support of family and friends," Keaton said in between counting shoes.

Indeed, the St. Joseph High School student collected 2,029 pairs of socks and 339 pairs of shoes with the help of his school, parents and Grace Presbyterian Church.

"It really inspired me to think about one another," Keaton said.

Preyss, along with Renegade Church, hooked up with Palmer Chinchen, who conceived the event called Barefoot Sunday at his church in Arizona.

While schools, churches and colleges have had shoe drives for the cause, Chinchen said he'd never seen a community gather together like Victoria.

"Now I'm bothered because (Victoria's) doing what we need to be doing," Chinchen joked about his hometown.

Chinchen had the crowd laughing Sunday night as he encouraged each person to realize he or she can make a difference in the world.

"It really is a wide effect when kids and schools get involved," he said.

At last count Sunday night, the amount of shoes collected was 4,700 and still piling up.

"We have too many shoes, which isn't a bad problem to have," Preyss said.

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