Rose Averill recalls vividly the moment God revealed the need that prompted her to launch Footprints Ministry. She calls it her "somebody moment."
In July of 2002, Rose, her husband, Frank, and their two teenage children, Ashley and Ryan, volunteered at a summer camp for homeless children in the Clearwater, Florida area. While they were serving as counselors at the four-day camp for 6- to 13-year-olds, many of their fellow counselors brought children to Frank, a pulmonary physician. Frank noticed that 90 percent of their health problems were foot- and shoe-related. When Rose and Frank paid attention, they realized some of the children wore slippers, two left shoes, or hand-me-downs three sizes too big. Their ill-fitting shoes resulted in bruises, welts, bleeding sores on their feet, and some more serious problems.
"One young boy's feet were too small for his body," Rose explains. "There's an old Japanese technique called foot binding, where they bind people's feet from childhood to keep them small. Since this boy wore shoes too small for his feet, he experienced the same effect."
Thankfully, the camp kids were given two outfits and a new pair of sneakers. Rose and Frank had no idea what prized possessions these were for the campers until they heard the story of one little girl who, after walking across a field to the activity center with her counselor, asked to use the bathroom. Afterwards, they walked back across the field, and she again asked to use the bathroom. When the counselor asked if she was feeling all right, she replied, "I'm fine. I just want to clean my shoes." "That's how precious they were to her," Rose says.
Rose and Frank were struck by this need and decided to find ways to help meet it when they returned home. Rose visited homeless shelters in their area and learned 60 percent of the homeless in America are children. Also, while clothes are often donated to shelters, shoes are a rarity. And while hand-me-down clothes are fine, shoes that have already been molded to someone else's feet are less than ideal.
Rose asked which people or ministries were doing something about this dire need. The response surprised her: No one.
"That was my 'somebody moment,'" Rose says. "My gut response was, Somebody needs to do something!" Over the next few months, she became that somebody.