At 5 years old, Pfifer Chastain decided to give up her sixth birthday party in favor of a shoe drive to help orphans in need. She and her family threw a backyard carnival with the goal of collecting 100 pairs of shoes.
“We had everything,” said Heather Chastain, Pfifer’s mother. “A basketball toss, milk bottle throw, duck pond, balloon pop, a putt-putt golf game, a face painter, a fire engine, balloon animals, hot dogs, popcorn and drinks. People earned tickets just like a street carnival and redeemed them for prizes.”
They posted invitations around town, in the elementary schools, the Walmart shoe department and Payless ShoeSource, and invited their church’s Wednesday night children’s ministry.
“We wanted it to be as much about the shoes as it was an outreach to get the community to come together to support a Christian organization,” Chastain said.
They did come together. Payless ShoeSource offered a 10 percent discount to customers buying shoes for the carnival after hearing about Pfifer’s project. The newspaper’s editor wrote a feature story and a letter challenging the community to rally around the idea. Even the carnival clown was excited.
“He knew somebody who worked at a Stride Rite store in Shreveport,” Chastain said. “They corporately donated 100 pairs of shoes and sent them to us to process and get to Buckner.”
She said the key to planning the carnival was keeping it simple.
“All in, including the processing of the shoes and getting them ready to send to Buckner, it probably took maybe 20 to 25 hours to plan and execute. The neat thing was, really it seemed to come together pretty easily,” she said.
“We kept it really low-key and got the kids involved. They made all the carnival signs and decorations, so it had a very homemade feel to it.”
Within four hours, they had more than 200 guests in attendance and collected 336 pairs of shoes.
“To watch Pfifer line up those shoes and see it all become reality was a really important thing for her, and for our whole community,” said Emily Prevost, director of community ministries for Buckner in collaboration with First Baptist Church of Marshall.
“It went from an abstract thought about orphans needing shoes to a concrete reality that she was really able to do something about it,” Prevost said.
When it was all over, Pfifer asked her mom what an orphan was, exactly.
“I told her they were children who didn’t have mommies or daddies to live with,” Chastain said. “She told me, ‘Next year let’s forget the shoes and get them parents!’”
Shoes for Orphan Souls, the largest humanitarian aid project of Buckner International has distributed more than 2.3 million pairs of shoes to orphans and vulnerable children in 74 countries since 1999.To learn more about the importance of shoes, visit www.buckner.org/shoes.
You can be a part of this important project by hosting a shoe drive for your organization, church or small group – it’s easy and we provide all the materials you need! Visit us online or call 1-866-774-SHOE for more details.