SELMA – Bethany Byrd loves shoes, but not as a fashion statement. To her, they’re a means to financial freedom for families continents away and a way to pay for counseling services she’s offering to locals who’ve experienced trauma and sexual abuse.
Byrd is operating the nonprofit 5 Stones Open Door and offers free group counseling services at First Friendship Baptist Church, 2606 Shaft St. To help cover the cost of booklets and other supplies used during the sessions, she’s coordinating with another nonprofit, Hope Now, that pays for shoes donated to families in Haiti and South America. Those families are running their own small businesses and use the shoes as merchandise.
“Their families run little businesses so they can provide for themselves,” Byrd said. “One of things I like is that this drive isn’t taking money out of the community, but it’s adding to the community.”
Byrd’s been collecting shoes since October and so far has 17 bags filled with 25 shoes each. Her goal is to turn in 100 bags by the end of November.
“I’m doing okay for one person. One guy said his wife has so many shoes, but I told him he probably has some, too. We all have shoes we’ve bought and just haven’t worn them. We’re so blessed to be here in the United States to have excess and we don’t even realize it.”
Byrd said she has longer-range goals of offering more services such as nutrition and exercise classes, job skills training and tutoring and have the survivors operate a mobile coffee shop to empower those who’ve been in abusive relationships or are involved in sex trafficking.
“They need a life change where everything needs to change. They need to be able to work and know how to do that. Many times, when there’s spousal abuse, their partner doesn’t want them to work or to go to school.”
If residents would like to contribute to this shoe drive, the deadline is Nov. 25. Byrd will be stationed at the Veterans Plaza in Lincoln Park at the corner of Mill Street and McCall Avenue again from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 17 and Nov. 24. If donors have a large amount of shoes they wish to give, Byrd will arrange for pick up. Donations will also be taken at First Friendship Baptist Church. For details, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jaxon Preciado came with his father, Steven Preciado, to give a pair of green Nikes to the cause that morning.
“They don’t fit me anymore,” Jaxon said of the shoes he’d outgrown.
“And they’re still nice to be used,” Steven Preciado said. “People already struggle and it’s just hard. There’s no reason to make money, so it’s nice to give.”