June 15, 2024 12:33 am

OPS bus drivers volunteer for ‘secret mission’ to distribute Shoes to displaced Kentuckians

Five bus drivers for Owensboro Public Schools volunteered for a “secret mission,” thinking only that they’d be providing transport for those displaced by the tornado to Barkley Lake State Park. Instead, they joined the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari, Gov. Andy Beshear, and others in delivering shoes donated by Samaritan’s Feet to affected families.

According to OPS Public Information Officer Jare Revlett, when the district received a call Thursday, five bus drivers immediately volunteered for the task.

“We have had so many of our staff members ask about different ways they can help and this was a unique opportunity for our transportation staff to get involved with the recovery efforts,” Revlett said. “We had more volunteers than we even needed, which just shows how dedicated they are to helping their neighbors in need.”

Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman teamed up with Calipari and Manny Ohonme, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Feet, to pass out shoes to displaced Kentuckians staying at two Kentucky state resort parks. They were also joined by UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart and former men’s basketball players Darius Miller and Jack Givens.

“So many people are stepping up in big ways to support our families in Western Kentucky,” Coleman said. “We Kentuckians have grit, but we have compassion in equal measure, and we truly are showing up for each other right now.”

As a young Nigerian boy, Ohonme won a pair of shoes in a contest. The experience inspired him to believe in himself and to work hard at achieving his goals.Ohonme wound up receiving a full scholarship to play basketball in America, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and was gaining success in the technology sector when he founded Samaritan’s Feet, a nonprofit organization that “serves and inspires hope in children by providing shoes as the foundation to a spiritual and healthy life.”

Samaritan’s Feet has donated thousands of shoes to Kentuckians impacted by the Western Kentucky tornadoes who are being housed at Kentucky state parks. Volunteers are needed at Kentucky state parks from Christmas Day through the following week. Those who can help should contact Andy Kasitz, assistant director of resort parks for Kentucky State Parks, at 502-418-3581 or by email at [email protected]. Because all accommodations are needed for those displaced by the tornadoes and for first responders, volunteers will need to make their own arrangements for housing.

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