Christmas Shoes Ministry began in 1996, in loving memory of my father, Kenneth P. Coates. My dad 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 spoke of having to wear shoes that were worn out or no longer fit that he had to share with his four siblings.
When I had children of my own, my father again voiced how important it was that his grandchildren always have a new pair of shoes when they needed them. In fact, the first thing he bought for my firstborn was a brand, new pair of blue and red tennis shoes –something he wished he could have as a child. I still have them today.
My father’s life was cut short at the age of 54, when my oldest child was only six years old. During those precious six years, his face would light up every time he gave one of his grandchildren a new pair of shoes. Not only did it fill his heart with joy to provide them with a gift he could never have as a child…he was also so thankful for having the means to provide them.
His servant heart and humble beginnings made him a man to be cherished 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 he would have embraced with open arms, and I hope to continue to make him proud by providing a new pair of shoes to every child Christmas Shoes Ministry has the privilege to help.
Here’s my dad and the first pair of shoes he bought my daughter.