The community at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Niceville raises money annually to help people in need worldwide. But this year, the church raised nearly $3,000 and used the money to help needy children in Niceville and Valparaiso. 

The operation is a product of the giving heart of Dr. Ashley Harte. Harte is a member of the congregation at St. Paul’s and leads many of the church’s youth groups. She’s always had a heart for children and for teaching them how to serve as her Lord does. So, naturally  when Harte was deciding what the church should fundraise for, she chose children in need.

Initially, she thought the church might be able to donate school supplies – and partnered with Sharing and Caring to help local kids with the items they need to get back to school. According to Harte, the non-profit had a solid back-to-school supplies program in place. 

RELATED: Army EOD gives a fresh coat of paint to Sharing and Caring. 

women and children in front of green bags
Ashley Harte, back right (standing) poses with her three children and Mari - a sharing and caring volunteer. The Harte's are active members of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Niceville. The church raised more than $3,000 for local children in need through several fundraisers in 2022.

They Need New Shoes – and We Need Gift Cards  

So, in order to use the money raised from church pancake breakfasts and passing the basket round more effectively, Harte went back to the drawing board. 

That’s when she remembered her time volunteering at a local elementary school.

“I homeschool my kids now, but I remember when [Harte’s daughter] Eva Rose was in school, even at Edge Elementary, I would go volunteer, [and] there’s so many kids with just ratty shoes, or flip flops or beat up off-brand crocs that are falling apart. And it’s like. ‘you can’t do PE, can’t play and do recess’ [in] terrible shoes,” she remembered. The church’s leadership decided to buy gift cards so that every child could pick out their shoes in the right size. 

The faithful at St. Paul’s raised more than $3,000 for children’s shoes. Enough to give 100 children gift cards for $30 to the SHOE DEPT. store in the Niceville Oak Creek Shopping Center. 

Corporate Gets Involved – But There’s a Happy Ending! 

Because the goal of the fundraiser was to bless as many local people as possible. As you can probably guess – there aren’t 100 gift cards in the Shoe Department store at any given time – more like 15-18, says sales associate Terry Kreuger. He happened to pick up the phone when Ashley called. 

He talked to his boss, who talked to their boss, the regional director, and then corporate. 

Typically when that happens, it’s a dud. 

Ashley remembers being told someone was going to call corporate – and thought she had hit a dead end. “I told my husband [that SHOE DEPT. Corporate was going to call], he was like, ‘Yeah, right.’ He’s like, ‘no one’s gonna call you back. You better run to every store and just start giving them money [to buy shoes].’” 

But they did call back – with a 15% discount and a promise to ship the gift cards overnight so the cards would be available for the kids and families that needed them at the back to school event for Sharing and Caring. 

God Provides 115 Pairs of Shoes

All in all, Harte believes it was a literal act of God that allowed the fundraised money to cover the needs of the 114 children who received back to school bundles from Sharing and Caring. 

With the discount provided by the SHOE DEPT., the church could buy 115 $30 gift cards for kids to use towards a new pair of shoes. These gift gift cards were given out as part of the Sharing and Caring distribution for back to school supplies.  

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