In search of shoes for all

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 8, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Helen Mustane Cary has worn many hats in her lifetime: mother, grandmother, career woman. But to some children, her bundles of goodies makes her a little bit like the man in the big red hat: Santa Claus.

Cary, who is a native of Louisiana but a resident of Cullman, began a non-profit organization known as Two Shoes earlier this year. The main project is collecting funds to purchase shoes for children who need them.

Last month, Harriet House in Marengo County became another recipient of her efforts. Harriet&8217;s House is a not-for-profit shelter for victims of domestic abuse that has been open since 1997.

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At least 12 children received pairs of new shoes, which may have been a small event to some, but was certainly a big event for them.

For some of these children, she said, this may be the only time they have been given a new pair of shoes. And this is not the last time Cary will be back to help out Harriet House.

Although the giving spirit is just part of her nature, Cary said there is also another reason why she decided to donate shoes. As the youngest of seven children, she often had to go without. What little her family did have was often hand-me-downs. For her, shoes symbolize a kind of stability she said is important in raising children under difficult circumstances.

The idea for her organization came after a period spent in retirement, a time of inactivity of which she was not accustomed after getting her first job at a young age and later working with Wal-Mart to open up new stores.

Not long after, she happened to catch an episode of Oprah where a woman had decided to donate pajamas to children. Cary knew she could take a note from the woman&8217;s efforts and the Two Shoes idea was born.

Since then, she has gotten support from several communities and plans to take her efforts to all 67 counties in the state. One day, however, she hopes to bring Two Shoes to at least one city in every state in the country.

Cary, whose passion is evident in her fast-paced and excitable speech, said she spends about two days a week looking for new shelters, two days shopping for all sizes and kinds of shoes, two days donating shoes and she reserves one day for attending church.

While the hectic lifestyle keeps her away from home quite a bit, Cary said she knows it is a path she was meant to take. At the onset of her venture a few months ago, she only had a few places to bring her message to. But now, word of mouth has lead all over the state making connections.