Making a difference: Two Shoes Ministry

Helen Cary (back) and Cheryl Askew in the “shoe barn” for Two Shoes Ministry (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman County is blessed to have many wonderful charitable organizations working hard and working together to take care of those who need support and comfort. Two Shoes Ministry is a local nonprofit founded by Helen Cary 12 years ago to help provide new shoes to those in need.

Cary recently hosted a red beans and rice social at her home to thank the officers and board members who help make her mission possible. Although the get-together was about fellowship, not business, she and others talked to The Tribune about what they have been up to this past year, as well as future goals.

“We have a great group,” said Cary. “I’ve joined Community Action and I go to their in-service meetings in Decatur so they’ve gotten hooked up with me for shoes. I have four different orders from groups that are with them. I’ve been real busy with them.”

Two Shoes helps with groups around Cullman and other cities in north Alabama. The group participates in Belk’s fundraising sale each year to raise money and also accepts monetary donations.

Two Shoes Treasurer Pastor Don Strandlund said, “We are grateful for Belk. It is one of the best centralized ways of raising funds for us because we work entirely voluntarily.”

Board member Doug Doggett added, “Helen can take a dollar and make it go a LONG way.”

Cary has a storage barn for Two Shoes at her home where she and the volunteers keep and arrange all the shoes as they wait to fill orders from groups such as Victim Services of Cullman, Childhaven and others.

“Last count we had given over 2,800 pairs of shoes,” said Cary, “but I haven’t counted lately.”

Cary spends much of her spare time searching for bargains and seasonal clearance sales. She recalled a recent trip to an area store.

“I find these bargains, and the other day I found all these sandals in all colors, and kids love colors. They were originally around $15 and I got each pair for less than a dollar and I grabbed every pair I could get.”

She said, “I do individuals and I go someplace and I see a child that looks like they need shoes. I will talk to their parents and provide what they need.”

Cary said she got the idea for Two Shoes one day after watching “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

“She had a woman on that was giving pajamas to children,” said Cary. “Something went through my mind and I thought, ’Why can’t I get into something?’ I went to Catholic school all my life and had to wear saddle oxfords. For 12 years I wore saddle oxfords and uniforms. I’ve been a freak for shoes and clothes since getting out of college. I sat and prayed and shoes came to mind.”

She got up the next day and began the legal paperwork to create the Two Shoes Ministry.

Cary serves as the Two Shoes Ministry president and Ellen Robertson is vice president.  Cheryl Askew serves as secretary and Strandlund in treasurer. Serving on the Two Shoes Ministry Board are Doggett, Dr. Bruce Lee, Dan Willingham, Dr. Paula Robinson and Dr. Joshua Robinson.

For more information on Two Shoes Ministry or to donate or volunteer, call 256-297-2426.

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Christy Perry