Kentucky Governor Distribute Shoes to Displaced Kentuckians

DAWSON SPRINGS, KY (STL.News) Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman were joined Sunday by very special guests as they handed out shoes to Kentuckians displaced by the Dec. 10 storms that devastated parts of Western Kentucky.  The Governor and Lieutenant Governor teamed up with University of Kentucky (UK) men’s basketball coach John 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 joined by UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart and former men’s basketball players Darius Miller and Jack Givens.

“We are all neighbors in Kentucky,” said Gov. Beshear.  “We love one another and we look out for one another.  And my commitment to the folks of Western Kentucky is, we won’t be here just this week or this month, but we will be here every single day for however long it takes to rebuild every building and every life, to get everyone as close as we can to where they need to be.”

“So many people are stepping up in big ways to support our families in Western Kentucky,” said Lt. Gov. Coleman.  “We Kentuckians have grit, but we have compassion in equal measure, and we truly are showing up for each other right now.  I want to thank all the volunteers, everyone who has donated to our Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, and this morning, I especially want to thank Coach Cal and Samaritan’s Feet.  Today, Manny, you too are a Kentuckian.”

“I called Manny with Samaritan’s Feet after hearing from the Governor we need shoes, and Manny turned this around in 48 hours,” said Coach Calipari.  “I’ve seen the damage on TV and today’s not about that – it’s about the people, that’s what this is about.  Hearing stories today just hits home.  We’re all thinking about you, praying for you and we’re going to be here for you.”

Samaritan’s Feet has donated thousands of shoes to Kentuckians impacted by the Western Kentucky tornadoes who are being housed at Kentucky state parks.  Gov. Beshear and Lt. Gov. Coleman personally delivered shoes to displaced Kentuckians lodged at Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Cadiz and Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park in Dawson Springs.  Shoes will also be distributed to those staying at other state resort parks as well as those sheltering elsewhere in the region.

As a young boy, Nigerian Manny 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.”

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 andy.kasitz@ky.gov.  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.