SWU graduates go the extra mile so others have shoes
More than a 1,200 homeless men, women and children have better, more comfortable shoes, thanks to the efforts of two Southern Wesleyan University graduates.
Heidi Wilcox Ravenscraft, a 2002 special education graduate, along with her sister Melissa Wilcox, a 2006 elementary education graduate, started Shoes for Steve four years ago. Their outreach, aimed at homeless shelters in the Upstate, is named in honor of their father, whose addiction to alcohol led to a life on the streets.
From the time they were little girls, Ravenscraft and Wilcox gave a gift they knew their father really needed.
“When we were very young, we started giving him a pair of shoes, wrapping them in two separate boxes. I’d give one and my sister would give another,” said Ravenscraft, adding that they did this each year until he was tragically murdered in 2007.
For the first time, the sisters could not buy their father shoes for Christmas.
“The first year, we didn’t do anything. It was weird to not give him shoes as we did for 20 years before,” Ravenscraft said. The next fall, she started a shoe drive at Ravenel Elementary, where she teaches special education. With the help of a few churches, she ended up with 450 pairs of shoes, which were given to homeless shelters in Greenville.
For the last two years, the sisters have handed out the shoes in person at Haven of Rest, a homeless shelter in Anderson.
“It’s more meaningful that way- handing them out in person Thanksgiving Day. You meet men very similar to what my dad was like – you see whole families – that’s really powerful,” Ravenscraft said. She pointed out that a pair of shoes wears out fast – often in a few weeks – when worn by someone who spends their day walking the streets.
Shoes for Steve takes donations of new or gently-used shoes, as well as socks, to the shelters.
“We try to give away a pair of socks with each pair of shoes, and this year we also wanted to include a reusable grocery bag,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox feels the growth of Shoes for Steve is evidence of the Lord’s hand in their efforts. She’s gratified as she sees others taking initiative to be involved with Shoes for Steve.
“One of my student's families learned of the shoe drive and wants to do a drive with her dance team,” Wilcox said. “I love that our sphere of influence is spreading and others are excited about it, too.
“It helps to know that I'm helping someone's dad, or son, or brother in a very practical way. The homeless are often overlooked during the holidays, and often they have the greatest needs,” Wilcox said.
“People often forget that the guy standing on the street corner is somebody’s little boy,” Ravenscraft said.