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    Shoe the children is new ministry's goal

    Footprints Ministry, a grass roots group led by Rose Averill, wants to make sure all homeless children in Pinellas have shoes.

    By MICHAEL SANDLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 28, 2002


    They arrived at the St. Petersburg shelter at 1 o'clock, as promised.

    Nearly 300 pairs of children's shoes, neatly arranged by size and sex in 15 aqua plastic bins.

    photo
    [Times photo: Douglas R. Clifford]
    Ashley Averill, 13, tosses a pair of shoes into a collection bin Sunday while tying and tagging them at her family's Largo home. Her mother, Rose Averill, in the background, has worked to collect shoes for the homeless in Pinellas County.
    Girls in the front, boys in back. A roaming children's shoe store carrying everything but the cash register.

    "It's a blessing," said Jenny Amezquita, holding her son, 7-month-old Daniel, in her arms.

    Amezquita, a single mother of three, has taken residence at the Resurrection House, where the shoes were on display. She brought Daniel to try on one of the many pairs collected by Rose Averill, a Clearwater women on a mission.

    Averill, 40, wants to cover the soles of every Pinellas child who lacks a home.

    Footprints Ministry, her newly formed grass roots organization composed of herself, her husband and friend Sue Garnett, set out in August to collect as many shoes as possible.

    "I couldn't believe the number of homeless children and the physical condition of their feet," Averill said.

    Rose and Dr. Frank Averill were enlightened in July when the couple volunteered at a camp in Manatee County for homeless children. Each child was given two outfits and a pair of shoes.

    Dr. Frank Averill, a pulmonary physician, noticed many of the shoes barely fit and many of the children showed bruises and welts from the shoes they wore. So he made a suggestion to his wife on the drive home.

    The Averills asked people to donate new shoes -- children's sizes 0-13, and adult sizes 1-12 -- or money to make purchases.

    They shared the idea with Garnett, Rose's hair stylist and friend. Garnett offered to put a shoe box for cash donations and bins for shoes in her salon. The couple now has six donation sites.

    "We are not talking expensive shoes," Rose Averill said. "I asked for sturdy, athletic shoes, basically sneakers. Shoes kids can go to school in and play in."

    In each pair, she includes a blue card proclaiming "God Bless" above a passage from 3 John 1:4, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." On the back is the popular Footprints religious poem.

    Sitting in his mother's lap, Daniel Amezquita tried on several pairs of shoes Thursday. Even with so many donations, his mother could not find his children's size 31/2.

    Not to worry, Garnett said.

    "When we come to pick up the bins, we will bring a pair," Garnett told her.

    Averill plans to take the shoes to six shelters in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, a schedule that extends into May 2003.

    Jenny Amezquita was thankful. She said buying new shoes for her children is luxury.

    "Sometimes you decide to save (the money) and do it later on," she said. "It's a blessing. Being able to try them on and have your child wear a nice pair of shoes to school, that helps."

    For information, contact Rose Averill at (727) 538-0263.

    -- Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or sandler@sptimes.com.

    Donation sites

    Avantaggio Hair Salon, 940 Clearwater Largo Road, Largo

    Dr. Frank Averill's Diagnostic Clinic-Largo, 1551 West Bay Drive, Largo

    Dr. Frank Averill's Diagnostic Clinic-Countryside, 3131 N McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater

    Ron's Art and Frames, 1724 Missouri Ave. N, Largo

    Kids Clips, 1130 East Bay Drive, Largo

    Auracle Salon and Day Spa, 530 Tyrone Blvd., St. Petersburg

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