Early this snowy morning, the Shoe Santa made his list and checked it twice. He enlisted a full crew of elves and invited them to Anderson’s Shoe Carnival in the quiet hour before the store opened to the public.
One by one, children’s names, ages, and shoe sizes were called out. Shoe Santa’s elves scurried about, seeking the right size and best style for each child. The elves found tiny shoes, large shoes, glittery shoes, and rugged shoes and labeled each with a child’s name. They carried stacks of shoes to a tall silver rack where Shoe Carnival staff inspected each pair to ensure they were properly matched. Shoe Santa reminisced, “One year, I got ice skates for Christmas, and got two right skates. Boy. That was a bummer!”
As Shoe Santa reached the end of his list, Shoe Carnival staff assigned all eligible discounts and helped load the boxes into the Shoe Santa’s large white pickup truck. At the end of this expedition, the Shoe Santa had purchased 66 pairs of shoes for children in need.
These 66 pairs of shoes add to the mountain of shoes the Shoe Santa has provided over the last 17 years. In all, 1198 children in South Madison County have received gifts from Shoe Santa. The shoes are wrapped and delivered to families who have faced hardship during the previous year and who have been assisted by Township trustees.
Shoe Santa and his elves wrap each shoe box and ensure delivery in time for Christmas. The families who receive shoes from are heartened by the gifts. For a rare moment, they don’t have to make a calculated choice between buying new shoes for their child’s growing feet and new jeans for their longer legs. Shoe Santa’s generosity offers encouragement. “Know that someone understands your struggle. Know that someone cares. ”
For the first several years of its existence, the man behind the Shoe Santa project operated anonymously, but in recent years, his identity has been shared publicly in order to encourage other community members to follow his example. Dr. Phillip Shirley, of Pendleton, is Shoe Santa. He says that he was willing to be known for his actions because someone else might learn of the project and, knowing him, say, “Well, if Old Doc Shirley can make a difference, maybe I can do something, too.”
Pictured: Kyle Lewis, Lisa Floyd, Amanda Matlock, Dr. Phillip Shirley, Tammy Bowman, Gloria Tarr.
You can find more information on this organization at their Stony Creek Lifestyle listing accessible here.