MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — It was hard to tell who was more excited Wednesday morning when Centerpointe Church members visited Winchester Avenue Elementary with a special delivery for the school’s approximately 200 students.
Even before teachers led their bright-eyed students into the gym, church members were more than ready because they couldn’t wait to give each child a new pair of shoes and socks.
And not just any shoes, but ones that had been chosen by the students, said the Rev. Nick Scott, explaining that the morning’s festivities were actually the result of carefully planning and lots of love.
For example, church members had been “faithfully giving for the last year” in order to fund this project – which will also include a similar presentation Friday, when about 100 pairs of shoes and socks will be given to Burke Street Elementary School students, he said.
They received either Nike or New Balance athletic shoes — some bright blue or red, others in pastel colors like peach and pink, based on their individual preferences, Scott said.
“This really goes back to what our church is all about, and that is helping meet community needs. A lot of us have experience running in the recovery circles, so we know how rampant drugs and addiction are in the community. So we want to be a church who meets needs and works toward really making a difference. We can all say we want to make a difference, but getting out there is what really matters,” Scott said.
“Kids can be forgotten, so we wanted to get out to them. If we want to have a better future, we have to start with them,” he said, smiling at a nearby group of children who’d just been given a bag with the gifts inside.
Kindergarten teacher Whitney Navratil and her assistant Christy Santana agreed that fellow employees almost couldn’t believe the news when they heard about the shoe donation.
“This is just so amazing, because we have such a big, big need here. We have kids whose toes are poking through their shoes, others complain about their feet hurting. Some of us even bring in gently used shoes that can be used, but the need was much better than we could supply,” Navratil said.
“I’m just pinching myself to make sure this is real,” she said, smiling as church member Caroline Becker helped Kalaesia Molina, Maria Lehy and Harley Gilbert excitedly loosened laces so they could slip on the new shoes.
Another classmate, Adrian Gaskins, also came over to help when they were having a hard time.
“I like shoes, and I just like to help,” he said without hesitation.
In just a few minutes, other church members, teachers and their aides were busy helping children put on their new shoes.
Church member Ted Morgan said the shoe distribution was even better than he’d pictured.
“Look at those little faces; they just couldn’t be happier,” he said.
Replacing old, outgrown or ill-fitting shoes also means the students can enjoy being more physically active, Scott said.
About a year old, the non-denominational church meets Sunday mornings at Musselman Middle School and has already grown to about 80 members, Scott said, adding that it had started with just four people who initially met in his family home.
“It just goes to show there are a lot of other people who feel the same way about reaching out to the community,” he said.
Scott also credited Berkeley County Schools for having been supportive after being approached about the shoe giveaway, as well as Finish Line for having sent employees to measure the childrens’ feet and order the shoes.
Anne Alban, who works in Winchester, said her company was happy to help with such a special project.
“It took about five hours to size all of the kids, but they are so sweet and seeing how excited they are today definitely makes it even better,” she said, adding that purple was popular with many of the girls.
Other church members who helped Wednesday included Tracey Scott, Sonja Bushue, Christine Noffsinger, Angie Conklin, Tom Davis and Dave Meltzer, who was dressed up like a clown.