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First United Methodist Church wants everyone’s soles.

The women of the downtown Baraboo congregation are collecting shoes for distribution to impoverished people around the world. They’re working through Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based nonprofit.

“We’re going global, but we’re also keeping it local,” said Mary Krszjzaniek, one of the shoe drive’s organizers.

The shoe drive grew out of a women’s Bible study group and book club. Over the course of four weeks of meetings, the women discussed how they could build relationships with people in need.

“We feel like this is a baby step of how we can make that connection,” Krszjzaniek said. “We want to know people -- we don’t just want to drop off stuff.”

Organizers launched the shoe drive during a church service last month. They removed their shoes before the congregation and placed them in a box as musician Stephanie Seefeldt performed a touching song. The women invited others to follow their example.

“The response was amazing,” Krszjzaniek said.

Within days, donors had filled several boxes and bags with tennis shoes, sandals and boots. Organizers have pledged to collect 200 shoes by Dec. 31. Soles4Souls will ship them early in 2016.

A collection box has been placed in the church’s fellowship hall, and surplus shoes will be made available to local people in need through First United Methodist’s free clothing store, Neighborly.

The free store, a free Christmas dinner and a baby carrier drive join the shoe collection as components of the church’s effort to serve people in need. The Rev. Marianne Cotter said “works of mercy” are part of the Methodist tradition. “The early Methodists brought blankets and food to people in prison, taught children who wouldn't otherwise be in school, offered free medical care, established homes for poor widows and shared their money with people who needed it,” she said.

Krszjzaniek said the women’s Bible study was looking for a way to give back. They hope others will benefit from walking miles in their shoes. “As a group, we realized the abundance of gratitude that we have for our church, community, world and God,” she said.

Baraboo News Republic Senior Reporter