The senior residents at Fort Lauderdale care center took time to give back to their community by cleaning donated shoes for kids last week.
Heart2Heart facilitated the community service project in partnership with Deerfield-based In Jacob’s Shoes, an organization that makes sure kids have shoes they can be proud of.
About 15 seniors at Manor Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center cleaned 40 pairs of donated shoes in less than an hour on Aug. 15. The refreshed shoes will be given to local children in need.
“They scrubbed and scrubbed. They kept wanting more and more.” said Julie Riggs, the activities director at Manor Oaks. “We ran out of shoes! And the water in those buckets was as black as can be.”
Julie explained that she hadn’t been sure how many seniors would be interested in the service project. It was the first time Heart2Heart planned such an event at Manor Oaks.
“A lot of my residents participated, more than I anticipated, which was wonderful,” Julie said. “Even some men came. Without my encouragement. I didn’t really expect the men to be cleaning and polishing shoes.”
Riana Samaroo, Heart2Heart community outreach director, explained that most of the residents came in using wheelchairs and had physical challenges to overcome.
“They had to be wheeled into the room or rolled themselves in. Some didn’t have the ability to use their hands very well. But they did whatever was put before them to their very best, and they really enjoyed it,” she said.
Riana said she was impressed by how fast they cleaned the pile of shoes.
“It was a way for them to give back, and although challenging, it was very rewarding,” she said. “It gave them purpose.”
Given the event’s success, Julie said she hoped to involve her seniors in a new service project every month. She already is in the habit of engaging residents in small tasks around Manor Oaks. They help her put up monthly calendars, deliver mail to rooms, write out birthday cards and even clean out the bird cage.
“It gives them hope that they’re doing something worthwhile,” Julie said. “We all have to have something to get up in the morning for.”
One woman, scrubbing a small pair of black shoes with pink trim, shared a piece of advice to younger generations as she worked.
“Start giving at your young age,” she said. “Because if we help each other, then somebody else will start taking care of you. What goes around comes around.”