“You have to listen to the nudge from God. If you listen, God directs, and things fall into place,” said Nita Jermochek, Shoes of Hope coordinator.
Legacy United Methodist in Bismarck, North Dakota, has held Shoes of Hope for five years. The idea started when Jermochek, who spent the winters in Florida, experienced a similar event at Grace Church, a multisite Methodist congregation in Cape Coral, Florida.
“I saw it and thought it would be neat to do that back home. I was scared. My husband encouraged me,” said Nita. “When God wants you to do something. Everything falls into place.”
During the event, children come with their parents for activities, a Bible, a simple meal—hot dogs, chips, and a cookie, a new pair of shoes, a new pair of socks, a voucher to get a haircut, to have their feet washed along with prayer and the story of Jesus washing feet.
Shoes of Hope is held at a school cafeteria on the south side of Bismarck. It is a familiar place for the children and their families.
“We have had it in the same place for five years. It is at a school on the south side, a place close to many of the families that come,” Nita said. “New this year was the chance to pick out an outfit. A high school student has started a clothing giveaway. He set up, and the kids went shopping for an outfit.”
Before the event takes place, families sign up or register. Ads are placed on Facebook and at Burleigh Couth Social Services. Registration is a way to shop for the shoe sizes needed. The capacity or maximum is 150 children in kindergarten through grade eight.
“We want to provide quality shoes for each child. We give each child a choice between two pairs of shoes. Once we know that child’s size, we buy two pairs of shoes in that size. Some sizes are more expensive and harder to get. Each year, we seem to pull it off,” said Nita.
Volunteers shop, help organize things, and are present on Sunday from 3-6 p.m. “We selected Sundays because it is easier to get volunteers, and we know that families are around,” Nita said. “We have somewhere between 60-100 volunteers that work on Shoes of Hope each year. Everyone at church and the entire community is so supportive.”
Volunteers organize activities like making bookmarks and bracelets, handing out Bibles, balloon animals, and setting up the food.
The foot washing and prayer area is where volunteers find the most satisfaction. There is a guide for praying, and John 13:2-17 is bookmarked in the Bible so the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples can be shared.
“You don’t know who is going to walk through the door. A family had experienced the death of a family member by suicide. They felt drained. Prayer and new shoes are just what they needed,” said Nita. “Another child, when asked by one of our volunteers if she could pray for the child, said, ‘Can you teach me how to pray? I want to learn how to do that.’”
Youth volunteering at Shoes of Hope report that foot washing and praying are the coolest. Nita shares that her heart breaks when she and the other volunteers see kids coming with duct tape to hold their shoes together. “Children come to Shoes of Hope wearing their brother’s or sister’s shoes that are too big for them,” said Nita.
As soon as the event ends, preparation begins for the following year. Any inventory left is stored and made available throughout the year if a school calls with a need. While Jeromcheks are in Florida, volunteers watch for shoe sales for sizes that are in the most demand.
The partnership with the school has expanded to provide necessary school supplies and support throughout the year. In the future, Shoes of Hope will try to expand to more than 150 children.
For Nita, it is a passion. “It is near and dear to my heart. These shoes are like gold. They leave with smiles on their faces. If you can make one child smile, it is worth it!”
Funding: In 2018, a Breakthrough Ministry Grant provided seed money for Shoes of Hope. The project recently received funding from a Capital Electric Grant. Legacy UMC faithfully supports the financing of Shoes of Hope.
About Legacy Church: Legacy is a multisite church that welcomes 450 people weekly in two physical locations and legacyumc.org/online. We are followers of Jesus who practice radical hospitality, extravagant generosity, passionate worship, authentic faith sharing, intentional faith development, and risk-taking mission and service. Discover more at legacyumc.org. For more information, contact Legacy at 701.223.4401 or oﬃce@legacyumc.org.