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Soothing Homeless Soles


Every Friday, volunteers of a Virginia church come face-to-face with a lot of feet. Because living on the street can be very hard on soles, the urban congregation has made a ministry of caring for tired feet and giving the homeless a spiritual boost, as well. Reed Galin has more.


(Locator: Richmond, Virginia)

Some live in huts built along a river.  Their shoes are ragged from walking miles a day.
But there’s a refuge that soothes the soles of the homeless.

Kathy Scott/Shelter Resident: "It was good."

Centenary United Methodist Church serves lunch once a week for the “street people” in Richmond, Virginia.  And the church offers something extra…a foot-washing ministry called Bless My Sole.

Polly Chamberlain/Centenary United Methodist: "I have to be frank.  There are some times when someone takes off their shoes and socks and whoof! (Laughs) It’s not roses.  But you get over that."

Polly Chamberlain started the ministry.  She and several community volunteers see athlete’s foot, blisters, and feet of all sizes…up to 15.

Darrick Walker/Shelter Resident: "Takes your mind off your troubles for a little while."

It starts with a warm soak.  Then there’s lotion and a new pair of socks. 

Polly Chamberlain: "Yeah, I’m ticklish around my toes, too."

But Bless My Sole is more than a warm foot bath. 

Polly Chamberlain: "When’s your daughter’s birthday? (Resident) September 4th."

Polly Chamberlain/Centenary United Methodist: "We talk a lot about difficulties that the folks are having. We also talk about successes and things that have made us happy."

Chamberlain says many of her clients have also become her friends.

Polly Chamberlain/Centenary United Methodist: "Friday mornings are my favorite day of the week.  And I come away from here just renewed, and ready for whatever.  And I hope that that’s the feeling that our clients have as well, that they’ve been taken care of and that somebody’s listening, somebody cares." 

Shelter Resident: "Give you a hug and thank you for that, because you’re doing, you’re doing God’s work, God’s work, darling."


When the residents of Virginia heard of Polly's foot-washing ministry, many people donated socks, shoes, and money. She and her army of volunteers have added six more foot-washing stations. Other churches have contacted her to find out how to start a similar service.

For more information, contact Centenary United Methodist Church at 804-648-8319.

Also see: Homeless find balm for their soles with foot-washing ministry.

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