RICHMOND, Va. – By 8 a.m. a line wrapped the Third St. Bethel AME church, as families waited for the 12th annual back to school free shoe giveaway to officially open.
"The New Shoes for Back to School Ministry" hosts the event and gives out an average of 4,590 pairs of shoes every year.
Many people started lining up early Labor Day morning.
Darlene Castro and her three grandkids were in line at 1:45 a.m. Monday.
"I’m hoping to find the best pair of shoes God can bless these children with, so they can be happy when they go to school,” Castro said.
Donations help make the shoes available to school kids from kindergarten to 12th grade. The ministry is made up of more than a dozen area churches. This year, Temple Beth-El joined the ministry.
"The energy of the room and everybody getting excited to have a new year at school, it's just indescribable," said Michael Knopf, the rabbi at Temple Beth-El.
In a couple of months, the congregation collected nearly 300 pairs of shoes.
"Just to see the shoes come in week after week and see them pile up like that reflected people's big hearts and generosity,” Knopf said.
That generosity goes a long way for many who need help getting children ready for school.
"This helps me because I cannot afford three pairs of shoes, and I feel in my heart if they have new shoes going to school, they'll learn better, they'll understand better," Castro said.
There are two locations people can go get shoes: Third St. Bethel AME at 614 N. 3rd Street in Jackson Ward and the annex of New Deliverance Church at 1701 Turner road on the city's Southside.
The event goes on until 4 p.m.
All leftover shoes will be sent to Houston and distributed to victims of Hurricane Harvey.