A Journey of Generosity and Gratitude

A chance encounter led one church in Chicago, IL, to serve at two local schools. Students at one of those schools, Anne M. Jeans Elementary, left a remarkable impression on the volunteers. Read how that church’s generosity turned into an opportunity for gratefulness.

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It all began with a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Chicago, IL who stumbled upon Samaritan’s Feet while browsing Volunteer Match looking for a volunteer opportunity. She was moved by the organization’s mission and brought the idea back to her congregation. The church embraced the cause and organized a fundraising event, raising enough funds to serve at two different local schools.

One of those schools, Anne M. Jeans Elementary, serves a predominantly low-income population despite being in one of the wealthiest counties in Illinois. The school is juxtaposed between low income housing and a gated community.

Meghan Radtke, a social worker at Anne M. Jeans Elementary, provided insight into the school’s demographics and the growing needs of its students. “We’ve gone from having a few families that needed a lot of support, to most of our families needing help to make ends meet. We do stock some clothing items, and we partner with an organization that provides winter coats for our students, but we’ve never been able to meet the need for shoes,” said Radtke.

So, Samaritan’s Feet and Trinity Lutheran Church held a shoe distribution for 342 Pre-K through 4th grade students at Anne M. Jeans Elementary. It wasn’t long before all of the volunteers realized it was going to be a special day.

Amy, a volunteer, described an emotional experience that left her with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and joy. “There was one little guy who didn’t seem to want to remove his shoes, I think it was maybe because he didn’t have on any socks. He looked down when he said, ‘Well, I don’t have on any socks.’ I believe the gift of socks meant as much to him as the shoes,” Amy recalled. Another touching moment was when a little girl, who wasn’t even Amy’s recipient, ran back to give her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek to express her thanks. Both moments highlight the profound impact of small acts of kindness.

All of the volunteers were overwhelmed by the students’ gratefulness and excitement throughout the day.

Another volunteer, Kathy, recalled a young boy coming into the shoe distribution with soaking wet shoes and socks. When a volunteer provided him with dry socks and shoes, his face lit up with joy and relief. Such moments were a stark reminder of the importance of these efforts and the difference they make in the lives of these children.

Radtke expressed her deep gratitude for the event, noting how excited the children were about their new shoes. The volunteers’ patience and kindness left a lasting impression on the students, who still proudly point out their shoes to her in the school hallways. Reflecting on the day, Radtke’s eyes welled up with happy tears, emphasizing the profound impact of the event on the students.