HUNTERSVILLE – Volunteers came together to put shoes on children’s feet, while also brightening the soul of the entire community.

On Friday, March 29, groups of volunteers connected to the Huntersville Cares initiative, partnering with the Samaritan’s Feet International organization, worked together to deliver socks, shoes and a heightened sense of hope to students at Blythe Elementary School. Working from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., representatives from churches, neighborhoods, civic clubs, businesses and local government teamed to provide approximately 300 children with new shoes provided by Samaritan’s Feet, whose goal is to create a world with zero shoeless children.

The process involved volunteers spending a few minutes talking with students before washing their feet and helping the youngsters put on new socks and shoes.

Huntersville Cares, the name given to a growing cooperative of organizations and individuals working together to enhance the community, helped coordinate the event with a big assist from University City Church.

Other churches and organizations participating in the event included The Neighborhood Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Decision Community Church of Cornelius, Lake Norman Kiwanis Club and Make an Impact. Donations were also received from additional churches and volunteers.

The seeds of the informal Huntersville Cares movement, according to Mayor John Aneralla, were planted at a town-organized community cleanup project in the Huntington Green neighborhood.

“It just grew from there,” Aneralla said during a short break from his volunteer duties. “It’s people from faith communities, civic clubs and other groups coming together to do things for the entire community. It’s a way for everyone to stay active making things better.

“It’s not just one church, one club, working on a project. It’s a united effort that brings groups together that might otherwise not be connected on a project – and creates a connection among people who might not otherwise know about each other.”

And Pastor Michael Stevens from University City Church, just off N.C. 73 in eastern Huntersville, said while the new shoes are something the children will appreciate, bringing the community together, and showing the young people the community cares, were also powerful messages.

“It’s a collaborative effort, churches and nonprofit groups coming together to make things better for these young people,” Stevens said. “Sometimes in our efforts to help others, we might travel all over the world and miss our own backyard.

“It is a joy to be part of this, to help the kids. But when people come and take part in something like this, everyone, including these wonderful children, gets to see what hope really is. And this is hope, all day long.”

Katie Meyers, project coordinator for Samaritan’s Feet in Charlotte, said the Blythe event was one of 150 global distributions planned by the organization in 2019 as part of it’s Million Shoes campaign. But she said the community’s engagement in the local project makes another stop in Huntersville likely.

“The level of community involvement, the commitment to this, it was a great show of support,” Meyers said. “And there are also more children in need in this area. I hope we’ll be back. This was a great event.”

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