A Lemont church will ship more than 1,500 pairs of shoes halfway across the world this fall in an effort to help orphans in Haiti and Uganda.
Community Christian Church, which opened its downtown Lemont campus in March, recently partnered with the Villa Park-based nonprofit Stuff for the Poor to launch a community-wide shoe drive. Throughout the month of September, the church has been accepting gently-used shoes of any size and style to raise money for education in poor countries.
"One of the core values of our church is community service," said Campus Pastor Dave Richa. "We want to make an impact both locally and globally, so this drive was an opportunity to do something on a global level."
Through its various shoe drives across the state, Stuff for the Poor collects used shoes to sell to African brokers, who in turn sell the shoes in poor communities at an affordable price.
Stuff for the Poor uses all proceeds from the shoe sale to send orphans to school, Richa said.
"A lot of people have shoes that they've barely worn and are just sitting in their homes, so this is a great way to recycle them for a good cause," he said.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, teams of volunteers from the church spent four hours collecting shoes from more than 700 households in Lemont. By the end of the day, they collected more than 1,100 pairs of shoes — bringing their grand total to more than 1,500.
The church will be collecting shoes through Sept. 30 before sending them off to villages in Uganda and Haiti.
"The drive has been a huge success so far, so we hope that continues in our final week," said Jennifer Savini, the church's director of administration.
For Savini, the shoe drive has been a labor of love. Next month, she and her husband, Chris, will move with their two children to Haiti, where they hope to start Christian churches in various communities.
"My husband I visited Haiti for a short-term mission trip, and it's a place we feel really passionate about," she said. "There's a need for help in Haiti, but there's also a great deal of beauty and hope. We were really drawn to that."
Chris Savini has served as an apprentice to Richa since the Lemont campus opened, Jennifer said. He hopes to take what he has learned at Community Christian Church and apply it to the communities in Haiti.
"We believe that a dynamic church community can really become a pillar of a town, so we hope to create that there," Jennifer said.
Having seen first hand the need for education in countries like Haiti, the shoe drive was an exciting opportunity for the Lemont community to make a positive contribution, she said.
"So many people in Haiti and Uganda don't have access to public education, so hopefully this shoe drive will give some children opportunities they didn't think were possible," she said.
Shoes will be accepted through Sept. 30 at Christ Community Church in downtown Lemont, 102 Stephen St.