With the arrival of the holiday season also comes the arrival of colder weather. To help those less fortunate who have no choice but to endure the chill without basic necessities such as shoes, socks and coats, local churches and businesses are getting into the spirit of giving and doing their part to make sure that no one in the community has to go without.
Since Monte Vista Chapel effectively “adopted” Dennis Earl Elementary School three years ago, Principal Laura Fong said the church has conducted beautification projects at the school site through Love Turlock, provided lunch, coffee and even hot fudge sundaes to staff, and supplied Character Coaches to work with students. This year, however, the church has stepped up its supportive efforts at the elementary school by making sure that every student and their family has a pair of shoes and any other basic supplies they need.
“We really have a heart for helping people just meet needs they have and when we heard that there were some kids that were struggling, our hearts just broke,” said Monte Vista Chapel Children’s Director Kelsey Henderson.
Fong said that the elementary school has been using one of its supply closets as an area to hold shoes that were donated by Harvest Christian Church and staff members; however, the supply was slowly dwindling down. One day last year when three girls came to Fong for a pair of shoes, she enlisted the help of Monte Vista Chapel’s Carla Johns, who was immediately affected by the encounter.
“We went into the shoe closet and we didn’t have very many, but luckily we had all three little girls’ sizes at the time. A couple days later she contacted me and said she spoke to her church and they really wanted to help us stock it completely,” said Fong. “It just touched her heart to put the shoes on the little girls and tie them and see their faces light up.”
Johns reached out to Henderson, who posted about the need for shoes on her Facebook page. The call for help got a huge response from churchgoers and general community members alike, according to Henderson, who said that the entire weekend after her posting, people were dropping off not only shoes, but backpacks, socks, and underwear on her doorstep.
“My car was loaded,” said Henderson. “It was just really beautiful to see the community come alongside us because they didn’t want to see kids to go without either.”
Fong said while the closet was originally meant for students, but the school and church have recently begun to provide shoes and other clothing items to students’ family members as well.
“One of the dads from a refugee family we have here asked if we had any in his size so I texted Carla yesterday and she said absolutely,” said Fong. “It’s hard to give to two kids in a family and leave someone out.”
“We look at our resources and we figure it out,” added Henderson. “When someone has a need, you don’t just say, ‘Oh, we can’t.’ We will find a way.”
Henderson said that the church either finds donations to stock the elementary school’s free clothing closet or purchases new items in the event that they don’t receive a donation. The church is also expecting to host a shoe drive in January, with donations slated to go to Dennis Earl and the Turlock Family Resource Center.
“It’s amazing just to be able to be a church and have a school receive you. We feel really blessed that we have been so welcomed in their space,” said Henderson. “For us, it’s just an opportunity to say what we’re about. We’re not about just staying behind our church walls. We are about coming out and bringing God’s Kingdom in various ways — whether that’s in a pair of shoes or whether that’s spending time with a kid. It’s not just about sitting and teaching Bible. It’s about actually going and living out the example Christ gave us.”
Over on the opposite end of Turlock, ampm convenience store manager Ranjit Singh had a similar desire to help those less fortunate during the holidays. So when he and his brother Lovepreet Singh, who also works at the convenience store, were cleaning out their garage one day and found extra pairs of gently worn shoes, he decided to start his very own free shoe distribution.
“They were a bunch of spare pairs of shoes that we don’t wear anymore and they were all pretty new so instead of taking them to Goodwill, we just brought them here,” said Lovepreet Singh. “We thought it is getting pretty cold out there and we wanted to help out the community and all the homeless people.
“I can tell it’s actually working because I’ve seen a few customers come in that come in here all the time and they’re wearing some of the jackets that were out there. They’re really appreciative,” added Singh.
Singh said that in addition to the shoes and jackets that he and his brother brought from their garage at home, they also spent about $200 on clothes — mainly brand new shoes — to add to the convenience store’s distribution pile. He said that a number of customers who also caught wind of the free shoe and clothing distribution brought in their own shoes, jackets, beanies and socks to donate.
“At one moment we had 25 pairs of shoes out here and the next day I came in and half were gone,” said Singh. “Customers started reading the sign and started bringing shoes. People are still bringing stuff in.”
Singh said that the convenience store plans to continue offering the free clothing and shoes through Christmas. He said that he plans to host the shoe and clothing distribution again next year — definitely for the holidays, but hopefully sooner.
“Not everybody gets a Christmas present and there are lots of people that are going through rough times this holiday season,” said Singh. “This is just a good way to show love to our community, especially to homeless people that need the help.”