Enquirer Herald

Step up to give shoes for needy

Many York County residents know about Samaritan's Feet. But few may know it has headquarters in their back yard.

Samaritan's Feet founder and chief spokesman Manny Ohonme recently moved the nonprofit organization's headquarters from a small warehouse in Charlotte to a larger one on the edge of an industrial park in Indian Land.

"A lot of people don't know we're here," Ohonme recently told The Herald. "People know us more nationally than locally."

That is likely to change. The group that has distributed more than 1 million pairs of shoes to needy children worldwide soon will mount a distribution campaign in South Carolina.

The back-to-school project aims to deliver shoes to as many as 46,000 needy children across the state. Local United Way volunteers will help set up distribution points this month in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Clover and York, where volunteers will hand out shoes and wash the feet of children identified through school districts.

The foot-washing is part of every distribution project. In emulating Jesus' washing the feet of the poor, volunteers take the opportunity to offer Christian messages and convey Ohonme's signature theme: "It's OK to dream."

Ohonme, a 38-year-old native of Nigeria, was the recipient of a pair of shoes when he was 9. The sneakers made it possible for him to play basketball, which enabled him to come to the United States to play at the University of North Dakota-Lake Region. He later received a master's degree in applied economics.

It is easy to see why he would view a pair of shoes as a potentially life-transforming gift for any needy child. One of the primary goals is to help children in poor countries to avoid disease transmitted through bare feet.

In South Carolina, the goal will be more economic. If parents don't have to buy a new pair of sneakers for their children, they can use the money on other necessities.

Volunteers and donations of shoes and money are needed for the York County campaign. Visit samaritansfeet.org or call 866-833-SHOE.

We admire the valuable work done by Ohonme and Samaritan's Feet and are proud they call York County home.