SPRINGFIELD -- Shortly after they gave, students at Springfield Middle School received.
Thanks to a grant from Convoy of Hope, a national nonprofit organization founded in 1994, all 433 SMS students were given a brand-new pair of shoes during P.E. classes on Thursday, Dec. 7.
This came a couple of weeks after Kindness Month, when the school collected, packaged and delivered 6,120 food items to Mighty Moms, a nonprofit food bank that began in Livingston Parish in 2010.
Stephanie Erie, the counselor at Springfield Middle, sponsored the food drive in November and called it “a success,” adding via text message that “the trailer and truck was full!” and “students are already asking to participate again next year.”
Though they collected the food items with no reward in mind, SMS students got one anyway through Convoy of Hope’s Rural Compassion division, which partners with community leaders, local organizations and churches in rural communities.
Rural Compassion has existed for 11 years, working with 896 local churches and organizations in 48 states in 2015, according to its website. To date, the organization has given 153,263 pairs of shoes to rural public schools, a list that now includes Springfield Middle.
Sharon Kelly, who pastors both Celebration Church campuses in Denham Springs and Springfield with her husband Carl, was the person who applied for the grant to get the shoes, though she was never told how much it ended up costing.
“We do a lot of community work in Springfield, and this was an open door, so we just said, ‘Let’s do it’” she said. “A lot of people in Springfield flooded, so there was still a lot of need. People are still rebuilding, and a lot aren’t even in their homes yet.
“Plus, it comes at a good time to do something like this, around Christmas.”
Kelly said Celebration Church has worked with Convoy of Hope in the past, particularly during the August 2016 floods, when the faith-based organization brought pallets of food to the church to be dispersed to the community.
But she had never heard of the Rural Compassion division until attending a recent seminar.
After learning of its services, she then submitted grant applications for Springfield Elementary, Springfield Middle and Springfield High, and a couple of months after applying, she was informed that Springfield Middle had been selected.
The next step: get the shoes sizes, all 433 of them.
The teachers did actual measuring, using using laminated footprints to the get the sizes of all their students, who were unaware of the reasoning for it.
They finally found out in the school’s gymnasium on Thursday, when all students got to put on and walk out of school with a brand-new pair of name-brand kicks, which came in colors of brown or black.
But the gifts for Springfield Middle don’t stop there.
The Bulldogs football program recently received a $10,000 Smarter Football Equipment grant through Riddell, an American sports equipment company best known for its football helmets. Principal Dwayne Dykes said the school found out they received this grant two days after Kelly informed him of the incoming shoes.
“It was a good week,” he said.
However, the person breaking the news may have aroused more excitement out of the football players than the gift itself.
Louisiana native Peyton Manning, the former NFL quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, delivered the news to the team in a video that was uploaded to YouTube on Oct. 10, starting off with a cheerful “Greetings Bulldogs.”
“I’m so impressed at how your team is continuing to promote smarter football in the state where I grew up, Louisiana,” Manning said in the video. “After a devastating year, to be able to maintain national excellence in academics while practicing smarter football tactics on the field makes me proud and excited to be able to help your team out in such a significant way.”