Houma Presbyterian church achieves mighty ‘feet’

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The congregation of First Presbyterian Church in Houma stands tall when it comes to collecting shoes for Buckner International’s Shoes for Orphan Souls drive.

“Last year, we received 1,248 shoes from the state of Louisiana and, of those shoes, 1,003 came from First Presbyterian Church in Houma,” said Shoes for Orphan Souls project coordinator Ashley Williamson. “We greatly appreciate the support from the community of Houma.”

The church has been participating in the shoe drive, which provides new shoes and socks to orphans and children in the United States and across the globe, since 2006.

“Our first year, we collected 100 shoes,” said church women’s ministry leader Therese Fuglaar. “My daughter drove them there herself to Buckner International in Mesquite, Texas, that year.

“In 2010, we collected 1,250 shoes and we have collected a total of 4, 236 pair since we started. We are a small church and it is a miracle that we can collect so many shoes.”

Not only did Fuglaar’s daughter help to get the shoes form Point A to Point B, she also got her mother interested in the program.

“My daughter, Rebecca Rehm, saw the information about the drive on the Internet,” Fuglaar said. “It spoke to me when she showed me the information.”

“The shoe drive is a very real passion for Therese,” the Rev. Tommy Robinson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, said. “She is always very eager for the shoe drive to start. We are always collecting shoes. So far, we have collected 350 pair this year. We have a room just for shoes at the church.”

This year, the church, the only one in Houma participating in the drive, is specifically looking to collect teen sizes – 5 and larger – leather or athletic shoes as well as socks. All sizes are welcome and shoes may be dropped off at the church at 414 Barrow St.

“One-third of our warehouse is shoes for infants and small children,” Willamson said. “The sizes we really need are youth 1 to adult size 7 of durable athletic shoes.”

Shoes will be collected until Dec. 7, driven by church volunteers to Mesquite and then sent to countries such as China, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya, Latvia, Peru, Romania and Russia.

“The women of the church are really passionate about the shoe drive and they enjoy doing it,” Robinson said. We also have funds to buy shoes if we can get them at a low enough price. Church members keep an eye out for sales and pick shoes up for us. It is blessing to be part of a ministry like this.”

Although the church has not had contact with anyone who has received a pair of shoes donated in Houma, Fuglaar hopes to change that later this year.

“We write notes to accompany the shoes, but I am working to go on a mission trip with the next delivery of shoes,” Fuglaar said.

Since the Shoes for Orphan Souls project started in 1999, Buckner International has collected more than 2.3 million pair of shoes to children in 74 countries.

“Each year, these shoes go to Buckner International children who have grown out of their shoes from the previous year,” Williamson said. “Last year, the program collected 150,206 shoes and we are hoping to get 250,000 this year.”

First Presbyterian Church of Houma’s women’s ministry leader Therese Fuglaar sits among donations for the Shoes for Orphan Souls drive. Since the program’s inception in 2006, the church has collected more than 4, 236 pairs of shoes.