It is with a heavy heart that St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church Rector Lou Parsons is kicking off the annual Walk in Love Shoe Collection this year.
Just before the start of the drive, which began last week, Parsons received the news that one of the program's founding members and strongest advocates, Brother Ron Fender, passed away suddenly following a heart attack.
The collection, which runs through March 24, provides shoes and socks to Chattanooga's and Hamilton County's homeless population.
For Fender, of the Episcopal Brotherhood of St. Gregory, it was not just about providing shoes and the gospel during the day, Parsons said. He spent years living with the homeless, serving them in whatever way was needed most.
"Brother Ron chose to live amongst those he loved most," she said. " It's profoundly moving. In particular, I think it is extremely important to remember him and the work he did this way [by continuing the shoe drive]."
For the drive, Parsons said larger sized shoes are needed, as well as thick, warm socks in all sizes. Last year, the church collected 265 pairs of shoes, 268 pairs of socks and 29 foot care products. The church also collected $207 for the downtown Community Kitchen's homeless outreach, she said.
The church has a large, covered bin in the parking lot for those interested to drop shoes off 24/7, Parsons said.
For more information, call 238-7708 or visit the church at 7555 Ooltewah-Georgetown Road.
Email Gabrielle Chevalier at firstname.lastname@example.org.