Nov. 29, 2012 | Blue tubs half full of hot sudsy water lined the floor in front of two rows of straight-backed chairs at River City Ministry in North Little Rock on a recent fall night.
Men and women of all ages relaxed and chatted as they soaked their weary feet before moving into the exam room where foot and ankle surgeon Ruth Thomas, M.D., checked for calluses, blisters and other foot problems.
For the fourth year in a row, Thomas and other University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) physicians and staff organized and volunteered for Soles 4 Souls to care for the feet of the homeless, working poor and disabled.
“You look good,” Thomas tells a middle-aged man sitting on the exam table with his bare feet hanging over the side. She had just clipped his toenails and was pressing on the bottoms of his feet. “You’re not diabetic, are you?”
More than 75 people, including several children, were served at the Nov. 15 event hosted by River City Ministry, which got the word out to other shelters and ministries that serve the poor.
The Church of Christ-affiliated ministry also worked with Snell Prosthetic & Orthotic in Little Rock to provide staff to properly fit the recipients and to get donations of shoes and socks.
Vince Mann of Snell spent the evening on his knees measuring and fitting the donated shoes. A correctly fitting pair of shoes and two pairs of socks were given to each participant. “When you’re homeless you do a lot of walking,” Thomas said.
Mann’s daughter, Kaci, 16, a Bryant High School junior, worked alongside her dad, filling and emptying the tubs of water. Kaci said she loved volunteering and seeing how the event made a difference in the lives of the people they served that evening.
In fact, Kaci was so moved that the day before, she and other members of the Bryant High School band color guard delivered about 275 pairs of socks they had collected in a sock drive at the school.
Thomas said the event, organized close to Thanksgiving, was a joyful time for her and her staff.
“This is an event we’ve all grown to love,” Thomas said. “We’re very thankful for the contributions from the community and Snell. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful.”
Thomas, a veteran of international mission work, began coordinating the annual event after she was approached by orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon Stephen Conti, M.D., of Pittsburgh, who was looking for someone to spearhead a program in Arkansas.
Conti’s teenage children, Matthew and Laura, founded the national organization Our Hearts to Your Soles in 2004 to coordinate shoe giveaways and foot exams for homeless people across the country. Our Hearts to Your Soles works in partnership with Soles4Souls.