Susan Hennum is being honored as a Champion of Change for her Kiwanis International service.
It started as a simple program that I could bring to my elementary students—as easy as taking one step at a time but in our case, one shoe at a time.
My work with Shoes for Orphan Souls, a Buckner International Program, started in 2000 when I was the Texas-Oklahoma District Chair for K-Kids, which is a Kiwanis-sponsored elementary school program that teaches leadership and empowers children to serve their communities. As a member of the Kiwanis Club of Garland, Texas, and an advisor to a K-Kids club, I wanted to find a service project that would not only be easy for the kids to participate in, but one that they could feel good about and know they had made a difference in the life of someone else. We asked our adult Kiwanis members to bring new shoes to our conventions. In turn, the K-Kids clubs would write letters to the children in the orphanages for us to stuff in the shoes. It was an easy sell for the students.
The first year, we partnered with our middle school Builders Clubs and encouraged the students to write letters while the adult Kiwanis clubs provided the shoes. We collected more than 1,000 pairs the first year. We continued to collect shoes at all our events, and I quickly became known as the “Shoe Lady.” We had the local high school’s Key Club—another Kiwanis- sponsored leadership program—come to our events and sort the shoes and tie them together. It was a great way for students of all ages to work together with their sponsoring adult clubs. Many of our Key Clubs went to the location where Buckner had their first collection point and helped to sort and tie shoes.
In 2003, while serving as Kiwanis International chairman for the K-Kids Committee, I asked Kiwanis members who served as district administrators all over the world to come together at the Kiwanis International convention in Indianapolis and bring new shoes. The goal was to show everyone that Shoes for Orphan Souls was a great project to partner with your sponsored programs. What a unique opportunity for student clubs all over the world to work on the same program and help the less fortunate children get their first pair of new shoes. The goal was for the Kiwanis clubs to donate the new shoes and for the K-Kids to write letters to children in the orphanage. We collected 20,000 pairs of shoes that year!
I have since encouraged the students to collect shoes over the years, and after being elected governor of the Kiwanis Texas-Oklahoma District, I took this opportunity to institute the Shoe Project as my governor’s project. I am pleased to say that we collected more than 5,000 pairs of shoes this year.
I understand what it could be like not to have new shoes. I am very blessed to have been a private adoption. I can't imagine being in an orphanage and relying on others to supply you with clothes and shoes. I think this is why I love this program so much. We have had a wonderful time this year collecting shoes and rain boots for the program. It is just a simple program—starting with one step or one shoe at a time!
Susan Hennum is a member of Kiwanis International