WPAFB Chapel community foots bill for local kids’ shoes

Airmen check the fit of a child’s new shoes Aug. 8 at the Montgomery County Children’s Center. Young personnel from the 88th Security Forces Squadron and the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base helped about 160 kids find their perfect size and style among the brand-new pairs donated by the base’s Chapel community. (Contributed photo)
Caption
Airmen check the fit of a child’s new shoes Aug. 8 at the Montgomery County Children’s Center. Young personnel from the 88th Security Forces Squadron and the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base helped about 160 kids find their perfect size and style among the brand-new pairs donated by the base’s Chapel community. (Contributed photo)

Airmen help distribute shoes to foster children

By Caroline Clauson

88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As a new school year starts, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Chapel community is sending foster kids back to their classrooms in style, saving families from pinching both pennies and toes for the sake of footwear.

“I started thinking, what are one of the stigmas that really impact young people?” said Chaplain (Capt.) Marcus Branch, who first envisioned the drive. “And then I realized – shoes.”

Congregation members from the Kittyhawk Chapel and Prairies Chapel hit the ground running on the project, collecting 500 pairs of shoes and socks in just three weeks for children protected by the Montgomery County Children’s Center.

“We asked for brand-new shoes,” said Branch, “because it’s one thing when you clean out your closet. But for the children, we wanted it to be special.”

Designer Shoe Warehouse partnered with the Chapel community and discounted purchases made for the shoe drive.

On Aug. 8, volunteers each personally measured feet and led a child on the hunt for their perfect fit and fashion, distributing 160 pairs that day.

“It gives the families dignity,” said Djuna Shorter, the Protestant parish coordinator. “They’re not coming to receive charity; they’re shopping for shoes like anyone else, and they just don’t have to pay for it.”

Explore Chaplain corps team ready to guide weddings on Wright-Patt

Over a third of the 66 volunteers who helped the kids were active-duty personnel from 88th Security Forces Squadron and the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. The shoe drive gave the younger Airmen a chance to get their own feet wet in service beyond Wright-Patterson.

“It was really hands-on for the Airmen. It’s cool for them to see that they don’t have to serve on base only,” said Shorter.

The Chapel community is already busy planning more ways to brighten the Dayton area. A prayer tent at the Air Force Marathon will encourage and aid runners near the start line, and coat and toy drives are slated for Christmastime.

“We’re interested in being a light,” said Branch. “When I arrived here, the news and statistics told me that we’re the largest employer in the whole state. I look at that and ask the questions: What is our impact? How are we helping others in need?

“We want to be more than takers,” Shorter added. “We want to show that we appreciate the people of Dayton who allow us to take up their space.”

For more information on the recent shoe drive or upcoming chapel missions, contact Branch at marcus.branch@us.af.mil.