Alliance man’s heart is in a ’sole’ effort
ALLIANCE A pair of shoes seems like such a simple thing to possess.
But for millions of kids around the world, shoes are a luxury families often can’t afford.
It’s why Daniel J. Matea started Heart & Soles, an international lay ministry dedicated to ensuring that needy children around the world have shoes to wear.
"I never thought I would start a ministry,“ Matea said with a chuckle.
Three years ago, Matea was speaking with friends in the Philippines when he learned that the family’s children needed shoes.
“As an American, I guess I was stupid,” he recalled. “I thought the kids went barefoot because they wanted to.”
When Matea sent his friend’s nieces and nephews a Christmas box containing toys, candy and shoes, he said the children were excited about the shoes.
“They couldn’t care less about the other stuff,” he said. “One child with special needs had an infection in his foot that wouldn’t heal because he didn’t have shoes. They cried and prayed. It was an amazing moment. I started to realize there are children around the world who can’t afford shoes.”
Matea said he began researching and learned that children in underdeveloped countries often concoct shoes out of old tires and plastic bottles.
“All over the world millions of children go without shoes, or sandals, to protect their feet just because their families don't have the money to buy them a pair,“ Matea said. ”With no protection they are forced to do daily activities, and even play, outside on their bare feet. And, in a world where we dump trash, glass, and needles everywhere this leaves them susceptible to cuts, infections and diseases that can be debilitating for their tender feet.“
Matea estimates that he’s given away more than 2,000 pairs of shoes since launching Heart & Soles.
Last year, Matea brought a suitcase filled with shoes to the Philippines. Once there, he also bought a bin of children’s sandals.
“We couldn’t give out enough sandals,” he said. “Kids were begging even for baby sandals so they could cut them open and try to wear them.”
Once back in Alliance, Matea started acquiring donated shoes to send overseas, but quickly realized that the cost of shipping was prohibitive.
“I realized the local community needed shoes, too,” he said.
Heart & Soles started raising money to send overseas where shoes could be purchased cheaply, and accepting in-kind donations for local children.
“It was great we were able to reach both sides of the world at the same time,” he said. “We want to be able o help as many people as we can.”
Locally, Black Sales Liquidation in downtown Alliance has given Matea a window front to display shoes, and a “blessing box” has been placed outside of the Alliance Health Department.
Local churches also have contributed to the ministry.
“We have pickup points in Stark County, and in other cities, here in the United States where anyone who needs a pair of shoes can stop by and pick up a pair at no cost,” he said. “We don't have any pick up points in Canton or Massillon yet, so we drive out to neighborhoods, or specific locations, and give shoes out to the people in those cities.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers also have agreed to highlight the ministry at a future game. through a video. A spokeswoman for the team confirmed that they are working with Heart & Soles, but declined to offer further comment.
Matea said he's grateful for the support and sponsorship of his church, Beechwood Christian, which has allowed the ministry to use its 501c3 and function as a mission until Heart & Soles can acquire its own.
“I just believe Jesus wants us to help people,” he said. “I just want the word to get out that people can get a pair of shoes.”
To learn more, visit HeartandSolesMinistries.org or visit the HeartandSolesMinistries Facebook page, or contact Matea at 330-880-9908.