Going back to school is synonymous with getting a brand new pair of shoes for many students, which often feels like the best thing ever.
One local church recognized though that many students in our community do not have the luxury of confidently walking into school in a new pair of shoes, and they wanted to do something about that.
A few short years ago, Cornerstone Word of Life’s annual “Kickin’ It Back to School” outreach event was born, and this year’s shoe drive was their biggest and best yet.
Associate Pastor Robert Conover shared that their church has been doing back-to-school outreach events for many years, originally starting with backpacks and school supplies.
“We started to notice that there were other organizations doing the same thing, so we began thinking about what else students needed to feel prepped and ready for school.”
That’s when their outreach event transitioned to gifting shoes.
“Shoes are a big deal when you are a youth. We wanted to make sure that every student had a brand new pair and didn’t feel left out.”
This year, Cornerstone set a goal to give away 600 pairs of shoes. They raised all of the money within the church, rallying their congregation for support while sharing their big, lofty goal.
The end result: Their church family gave generously, allowing Cornerstone to purchase and give away 659 pairs of shoes to nearly 280 families in Madison City and Limestone County.
Conover says that in the past, they’ve tried to focus on purchasing the shoes locally via Dick’s Sporting Goods. They were unable to this year though because of the sporting good store’s struggling supply chain due to the pandemic.
His next point of contact was direct with Nike in Oregon. Conover says that he worked with a gentleman named Chad at Nike who requested Cornerstone’s entire Excel spreadsheet of shoe sizes.
A few short weeks later, hundreds of pairs of shoes flooded Cornerstone Word of Life that were ready to bless our community.
How It Worked
This “Kickin’ It Back to School” outreach was announced on Facebook and conducted on a “first come, first serve” basis.
Conover says that because they had a limited supply, they opened the outreach to just students in Madison City Schools and Limestone County Schools.
“We wanted to make sure that we are impacting our students and their families right here in our communities first.”
In years past, recipients were invited to a Sunday morning church service to pick up their shoes and worship and pray together before the school year.
COVID-19 halted that plan this year, so the team redirected and hosted a drive-by process. Recipients were given brand new shoes, a drawstring bag, “Hopes Lives” stickers, a face mask, hand sanitizer, and a “Hope Lives” t-shirt.
Conover says that “even though these are hard times, we still have something to be hopeful about, and we wanted to remind students and their families of that.”
One of the neatest parts of the outreach is that senior pastors were able to offer prayer over students and their families from their cars if they’d like.
As far as the response from students and their families go, Conover says that the feedback warms his heart.
“We’ve received hand-written thank you notes from kids, and some parents have even sent us pictures of their kids wearing the shoes.”
He continued to say that “This is not about us. All we want is for this to be special for the kids. You really have to witness all of it to capture how special it is. We really love blessing our community in this way.”
About Cornerstone Word of Life
This non-denominational church is located on Sullivan Street and is pastored by Senior Pastors Mark and Rhonda Garver.
Cornerstone started in Madison 27 years ago on HWY 20 in the back of Austin’s Furniture. A few years later they moved to a building in downtown Madison before eventually moving to their permanent, current church building.
“Our slogan is ‘Raising a generation from infants to adult'”, shared Conover. “We want to start at a young age and teach them about Jesus Christ and really tell them about the Gospel.”
“The Gospel isn’t about one person or society, and we want our church to reflect that. We have people from every walk of life. We’re extremely diverse because we believe that that’s what Heaven looks like.”
Current services are meeting on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Ample time is left between services to sanitize, clean bathrooms, and more. Guests who attend the second service will sit in rows that were not sat in during the first service. They ask that everyone please wear a mask.