Creator: Detroit Free Press
Subjects: Community Outreach
Description: The article discusses the annual shoe giveaway at Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church.
Original Format: Newspaper Clipping
Relation: Historic Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church
Contributor: Kamilah Stinnett
Transcript: A warm heart warms folks' feet
By Rochelle Riley
Inside the gym Saturday at Historic Little Rock Baptist Church, 39 tables held the fruits of the Rev. Jim Holley's labor; 5,000 pairs of new sneakers, boots, loafers, clogs and other shoes.
All day, those in need shopped at God's department store.
Mamas and children, many from neighborhoods surrounding the church and others bused from homeless shelters, browsed, studying style and sturdiness before choosing.
The shoes weren't Nikes and Filas and Nine Wests. They were warm and fashionable and, most importantly, fee.
22 years and counting
When Holley asked for support for his annual shoe giveaway, I listened. On Saturday, I dropped by to see the effort at work.
It's nice to know that some things turn out as promised.
Church volunteer Dell Patterson, whose official title is servant for the Lord, staffed the door.
"Hi, sweetheart! What's your sizes? she asked a young mother whose impeccable dress belied her need.
"My kids need a 12."
"The 12's are over there," Patterson said, pointing to a table near the stage.
It had been this way for 22 years at Little Rock, which began distributing shoes after Holley learned that some Detroit children skipped school on cold winter days because they didn't have proper footwear.
He was worried that this year the drive would suffer because it competes with an increasing number of larger charities for Detroiters' generosity. He didn't think he'd have enough shoes. Holley is the kind of man who loses sleep about such things.
The drive was a success, despite the weather, and the church is hosting a second giveaway Thursday.
But for Holley, it's about more than shoes.
Pastor at Little Rock for 28 of his 57 years, he's known around town as someone who helps those in need in the same way that God is good-all the time. He owns the Cognos advertising agency, founded the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences on Jefferson Avenue and runs Country Preacher Foods Inc. Profits from the company, which sells snacks, baked goods and sausages--and whose cookies are served on Northwest Airlines flights--go to college scholarships.
Country Preacher expects sales of $7 million this year, up from $500,000 in 1996.
"My goal is to give every kid in my school a college education," Holley said. He buys a laptop computer for every student beginning in second grade. "It takes funds to do all this and run our shelter and do other outreach ministries."
But his church's most personal project is the shoe drive, which thanks to generous local businesses, including Payless and Serman's Clothes and City Slicker, allows Holley to spend hundreds of dollars on thousands of shoes.
Holley juggles. For instance, on Saturday he was preparing to deliver the eulogy at a funeral while the first folks arrived to get shoes.
But he stopped by the gym long enough to say hello and welcome to, among others, Betty Knox, a Detroit grandmother who lives two blocks away. She was picking up shoes for her six youngest grandchildren.
"It's a blessing to get shoes for the kids," said Knox, 53, as she hugged Holley.
She was so excited about the shoes that she had come to Little Rock a week early, the previous Saturday. She was kindly told to come back in a week.
"It's a good feeling," she said, "somebody being nice enough to do this."