The Independence Rotary club donates shoes to orphans in Honduras

Look at your feet.

Do you have shoes on?

Most likely.

Now consider the unfortunate children of Honduras, who more often than not go without basic services like shoes as they live and learn in their country.

Now consider the Independence Rotary Club, who recently delivered its collection of 317 pairs of new shoes for the Buckner International’s Shoes for Orphan Souls at its district conference April 25 and 26 in Kansas City.

The Independence group partnered with the other 53 Rotary Clubs in Missouri Rotary District 6040, contributing a total of more than 17,000 pairs of shoes, 1,300 pairs of socks. More than $7,500 was also collected for international orphans.

The Blue Springs Rotary Club was part of the effort, too, collecting 125 pairs of shoes and 99 pairs of socks.

And with that kind of work, there is no one volunteer who should be credited.

In this case, it’s the Rotary Club as a whole.

“It’s been a club project for a while now,” Mark Smith, who serves as publicity chairman for the Independence club. “Rotary has always been about giving locally and internationally.”

In fact, the Missouri Rotary organization remains the largest single contributing organization to the Shoes for Orphan Souls campaign to date, collecting a total of 155,000 pairs of shoes and $54,000 in cash since the first shoe drive in 2001, according to Smith.

Since 1999, Shoes for Orphan Souls has delivered more than 1.5 million pairs of shoes and socks to orphan children in more than 55 countries. The Shoes for Orphan Souls is a ministry of Buckner International, a Dallas-based global ministry dedicated to the restoration and healing of orphans and at-risk children, families and senior adults.

For Charlotte Rouff, a former elementary school teacher in Independence and Rotary member, her exposure to the problem in Honduras began years ago when she and other teachers visited a small town there as part of educational outreach.

At the time, she advised teachers about how they could improve lessons and overall teaching strategies. It was a Pen Pal project.

“But when we were there, the teachers commented about how kids were going without basics, like shoes,” Rouff said. “And the basics are very important to learning. There are a lot of children there who don’t have shoes.”

While Ruoff didn’t start the Rotary shoe program, she did serve as an informal steward, a credible witness to the problem. After joining the Rotary Club a few year’s back, she reinforced the need to her fellow members.

“She was instrumental in getting the club interested in it,” Smith said.

Rouff soon discovered that children in Honduras didn’t understand why they should wear shoes. A physician there told her that.

“He said that we can give them shoes, but that most kids think they are uncomfortable and won’t wear them,” she said.

So Rouff’s husband, Norman, and friends wrote the script for a coloring book, illustrated it, explaining with their pictures why shoes are important.

“The children love it,” she said. “As a former teacher, you do what you have to do to get a point across. Teachers don’t give up easily.”

This year was the first year they sent coloring books with the shoes.

“It was received very well,” she said.

The Rotary Club also has invested grant money to Honduras to help pay for teaching materials like books, supplies, and other related equipment. Again, Charlotte played a large part.

Larry Ewing, president of the Independence Rotary Club and superintendent of the Fort Osage School District, said the group should be proud of its accomplishments, as should be the residents who gave.

“The people of Independence really opened their hearts to help children in need,” he said. “As Rotarians, we want to provide service to our local community and to people in need around the world. Donating shoes is so simple, but it makes such a big impact in the lives of needy children.”

Rachel Garton, director of Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls, said in a release that Buckner is “extremely grateful” for the shoe donation this year, as well as for all of the donations they have received from Rotary District 6040 in the past.

“Rotary’s consistency year after year has allowed us to send more shoes to children around the world, and ultimately, opened the door for us to share love and care with more children who otherwise wouldn’t receive it,” she said.