Avalon HOPE, Inc., volunteers, Jennifer Cupp (left), and her son (bottom, left) help fit shoes for young children during the non-profit's annual Christmas Shoe Giveaway.
By Johnny Jackson
Fourteen-year-old A.J. Schwartz said he is inspired to do more in the way of charity, especially when it comes to helping young people.
"It's really life-changing," said Schwartz, who volunteered for the Third Annual Avalon HOPE, Inc., Christmas Shoe Giveaway at Avalon Church in McDonough.
Avalon HOPE, Inc., is a community-aid organization founded in 2008 by Ritchie Miller, who is also the pastor of Avalon Church.
The organization focuses on four areas that represent HOPE: Helping the Poor, Outreach to the Community, Planting Churches, and Evangelism Around the World.
The non-profit partners, each year, with the Skechers USA Outlet in Locust Grove to provide shoes to needy children, according to Avalon HOPE Director Kristie Spinks.
Spinks noted the partnership was able to give away more than 500 pairs of shoes at this year's giveaway, held Dec. 11. She said the event included giving pairs of shoes to A Friend's House, a local non-profit home for children in crisis.
The children's home received 13 pairs of tennis shoes from the giveaway, according to Nan Jenkins, director of development at A Friend's House.
"This helps because the kids are in need of shoes and clothing all times of the year," said Jenkins. "This donation was a huge help to us, and the kids will have them for Christmas morning."
Spinks said some 150 Avalon HOPE volunteers turned out to help with the giveaway event, which amassed hundreds of shoe recipients in Henry and Butts counties, from birth to 18 years old.
Avalon HOPE volunteer, A.J. Schwartz, described the giveaway as a joyous spectacle.
"You're like wow, we just made this kid happy, and made his Christmas," said Schwartz, of Jackson. "It's pretty overwhelming. Ninety-nine percent of the kids were over-ecstatic....there were some kids who were wearing their parents' shoes that were four sizes too big. It was really nice to see them get all ecstatic over it."
The Jackson High School freshman also took part in Henry County's Community Christmas for Needy Families Program, coordinated through the non-profit Connecting Henry, Inc.
Avalon HOPE adopted 11 area families in the Community Christmas Program and served a total of 23 children.
"It encourages you to do more, because you want to make more people happy," said Schwartz. "When you're happy, you want to stay happy. I don't want these kids to be happy one second, and then be sad the next.
"I want them to be happy all the time -- that and showing them God's love, I believe I can do that," he continued.