By Heather Regula, Correspondent
First Baptist Church in Temple held their annual First Blessings Shoe Gifting Event at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9. First Blessings, now in its fourth year, has grown immensely from the time of its inception.
“One of our members had an idea to provide kids in our community with shows. Now we do this event here, and he takes his show on the road – helping families all over Texas, in conjunction with other churches and organizations,” explained Evan Duncan, Teaching and Communications Pastor. “Our event today is incredible – we have about 200 church volunteers, all easily identified by a red shirt, helping serve over 700 children, from 13 different schools in Temple and Belton. We worked with the schools and nonprofits such as Helping Hands to sign kids up for today, and this is our largest turnout yet!”
Attendees rotated through stations – after checking in at the registration table, families proceeded to the gym where they were able to eat a homemade pancake breakfast, and visit with church volunteers. Youth group students stayed busy bussing tables and keeping things cleaned up in the eating area. After eating, families stopped so their child’s feet could be measured, before heading towards the Shoe Room.
“Hazel Bates in the best hugger in Temple, and she is positioned at the door to the shoe room because she wants to personally greet and hug every child that comes through the door,” stated Duncan. “Our Shoe Room is organized like a shoe store – we have over 2,000 pairs of shoes sorted by size on tables. A volunteer is paired up with each family as they come in and they help the kids look through the shoes that are the right size for them. It is important to us that the kids have a choice in this – that they pick a pair of shoes they like and that they will wear.”
Extensive planning and logistical preparation go into this annual event, ensuring that things flow well without a lot of waiting. Volunteers were staged in the parking lot and throughout the building to greet and guide families as they arrived.
Church member Laura Abel oversaw the registration tables.
“I’ve been a member of this church for six or seven years, and this is our fourth year doing this event. Our process is family oriented, and it’s important to all of us that we are mindful and respectful to the families that come through here. We have interpreters on hand and lots of people volunteering today understand how to work with our community,” remarked Abel. “I’m a Pre-K teacher at Meridith-Dunbar in Temple and I’ve seen some of my students here today – I love that so much. The kids get a pair of shoes, socks, a Bible and a book – that’s a lot to some of our families! Probably my favorite part of today is that the families get to sit down and eat a home cook meal together.”
The Mission of First Baptist Church is “Leading those far from God to encounter Him and grow in Christ.” The intentions behind Saturday’s First Blessings Shoe Gifting are so honest and sincere – the love for others was evident everywhere. The church believes that one of the ways the needs of the community can be met is by serving others. Great strides were taken to ensure the utmost kindness and respect was shows to families and that everything was carried out with dignity. Church volunteer Isabel Hernandez is also a Kindergarten teacher at Scott Elementary in Temple.
“I’ve participated in this event for four years, and I always look forward to it. Today my goal is to visit with these families and help the kids shop! It’s so fun to watch them as they choose their shoes – they get so excited, and they are truly appreciative. I was a single parent for about seven years, and I struggled. I remember people coming alongside me and helping me,” explained Hernandez. “Now, I’m honored to be able to give back to the community and pay it forward. We rarely know what others are going through, so always to practice kindness. It’s so great to be able to love on these people today. Our church is about so much more than just donating money. We are about getting out there and helping our community!”
The next First Blessings Shoe Gifting event will take place in the spring at the 8th Street Baptist Church in Temple.