Christmas Shoes Ministry began in 1996, in loving memory of my father, Kenneth P. Coates. He grew up in a mill village in Greer, South Carolina. He was raised in difficult circumstances with "hand me down" shoes and very few personal possessions to call his own. As a child he never owned a new pair of shoes, and he often remarked about the shoes that were worn out and no longer fit him that he and his four siblings would share.

When I had children of my own, my father reiterated to me how important it was to him that his grandchildren always have a new pair of shoes when they needed them. In fact, the first thing my father ever bought for my firstborn child was something he never had himself, a brand new pair of blue and red tennis shoes. I still have them today.

My father's life was cut short at the young age of 54, when my oldest child was only six years old. For those precious six years, his face would light up every time he gave one of his grandchildren a new pair of shoes. Not only was he proud they received the new shoes he never could have as a child, he was also so grateful for having the ability to provide them.

His servant heart and humble beginnings made him a man to be revered and always remembered. Christmas Shoes Ministry was started to honor my dad and carry on his enduring love and concern for children who grew up facing similar circumstances in life. Our non-profit organization is something of which he would be truly proud, and I hope to continue to make him proud by providing a new pair of shoes to every child Christmas Shoes Ministry has the honor of helping.