Early in 2012, Donnie and Cindy Bonuchi went to two adult Sunday School classes at the the First Baptist Church of Macon with an idea for an outreach ministry project.
"We had been praying on how we could reach out and help people," said Donnie. "We got the idea of shoes; kids always need shoes."
The couple contacted Dana Kirks, Center Manager at the Macon County Head Start, to see how many of her students needed shoes.
"She said, 'Unfortunately, they all do,"' said Donnie.
In March, Shoes from the Heart began by providing 65 pairs of tennis shoes to the children enrolled at the Macon and Shelbina Head Starts.
A special account has been established at the First Baptist Church for monetary donations. WalMart donated $100 and provided a discount for purchasing shoes. J.P.'s Tux, Tees & More has helped with discounts on shoes. They also donated t-shirts for the volunteers to wear when delivering shoes. Prenger Foods provided sacks for the shoes for delivery. "We want to use local businesses," said Donnie.
The group set up a booth at the annual Back-to-School Fair in August.
"We had 221 kids express a need for shoes," said Donnie.
Shoes from the Heart volunteers help with calling families to get shoe sizes, help bag and deliver the shoes to make sure they are the right size.
"We've had a great number of people to help with this ministry," said Donnie.
The volunteers include adult and youth members of the church and the community.
"We had over 40 volunteers show up to help organize and bag the shoes for our last delivery," said Donnie.
"It is going great," added Cindy. "We started out small, but we keep growing."
Shoes from the Heart has helped over 300 kids to date.
"We have helped families in Macon, a few in Shelby and Adair Counties too," said Donnie. "I've had people come up to me out in public and ask, 'Are you the shoe guy?"'
The Bonuchi's have had inquiries from churches in other communities that would like to set up a similar program in their town.
Now that the project is established in Macon County, the group plans to create a shoe bank.
Anyone who would like to to donate new or gently used tennis shoes for the shoe bank may drop them off in the box at the Macon Chronicle-Herald office at 204 W. Bourke in Macon.
Shoes from the Heart can be found on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, call the Bonuchi's at 660-353-9915, or e-mail them at email@example.com. The number for the First Baptist Church is 660-385-3714.
The group is currently working on gathering around 70 pairs of shoes for distribution to Head Start students this fall.
Page 2 of 2 - "The kids we helped last spring are starting to out grow those shoes, and need new ones," said Donnie.