Hundreds show at local church for a free sneakers

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Hundreds of people line up for hours this morning, all for a free pair of shoes. It was a gift many parents are calling a blessing, just a day before the new school year begins.

Just an overwhelming response as three local churches team up to give away free sneakers for kids for back to school time. It's definitely an idea that is making for a lot of happy kids this Labor Day.

The lines seemed to go for miles, around the block in fact. It's inside the 3rd Street Bethel AME Church in Jackson Ward in downtown Richmond where the good are.

They are goods Damien Chew is sizing up. "I'm getting some free shoes!"

It's a new pair of kicks for free, a big help for his dad. "You got to think you say free shoes, you're going to draw in a lot of people," Chew said. "It's a blessing. It's a real blessing."

Back outside the church is where the anticipation was very high, for good reason.

"Just as much as there are people out here who need help, there are people who are willing to help," says mom Nancy Towles.

Three churches in all planned this to help out, with they say giving away about 2,000 pairs of shoes. In all, three organizers and a lot of help from people who know this giveaway means a lot.

"Maybe we can do a little bit to help the families that are struggling to send their kids back to school with a smile on their face," says organizer Pat Shipley from Centenary United Methodist Church.

"Just trying to get the light shine," says organizer Daryl Kearney, from 3rd Street Bethel Church.

"Just to see how many people turn out that are in need, is just incredible," says Tyrone Nelson, an organizer from Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church.

Of course, there are a lot of different choices and most of the kids we talked with aren't too picky about the choices, either.

"I want blue sneakers," exclaims Joshua Towles.

Yet, with more foot traffic than shoes, some people may leave here on Monday empty handed.

Organizers tell us this was all in a first come, first serve basis. They know they needed more than 2,000 pairs or shoes, but plans are in the works to make this even bigger next year. The three organizers are already in talks to try to get as many as 5,000 pairs of shoes next year.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.