Alfie Jelks knows the old saying about all of God's children having shoes is not true.
That's why the Columbus man makes charitable trips, bringing free footwear to youth in Jinja, Uganda.
Jelks has brought as many as 1,000 pairs of shoes on a single visit to the African country.
On Sept. 14, he will return for the fifth time and plans to have at least 500 pounds of shoes with him for children and adults.
Jelks still has shoes at his home he could not afford to bring last year and is seeking more.
The Columbus Metropolitan Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. is having a shoe drive from noon to 4 p.m. today at Shoe Carnival on Macon Road.
"It is great to have that support," Jelks said. "We are asking for new or like new shoes because in the past I have said gently worn and people have a different idea than me what 'gently' means. I don't want to give these good people something I wouldn't wear."
He said Walmart is making a contribution of shoes again, and he is grateful for that.
Cash donations are being sought as well. "We need funds to ship the shoes," he said. Money is also needed to play for his flight, food and lodging. Jelks plans to be there for two weeks.
Jelks, an assistant pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Columbus, was born in Tuskegee, Ala., but raised in Columbus. He is the owner of Alfie's African Treasures in the Mission Square Shopping Center on University Avenue.
He is also the founder and president of a nonprofit organization, The Soul of My Footprint. The primary objective for The Soul of My Footprint is the dissemination of deliberate and provisional supplies of clothing and basic-care items for the people of Jinja, Uganda.
Jelks said people in Uganda would rather earn what they need but many can't.
He said poverty is a problem in America, but there is a system here to help those who are hungry, sick or need a place to sleep.
"There is no system there, no safe haven," Jelks said. "They can't afford it."
He said being poor in the United States does not compare to being poor in Africa.
"Poor people in Uganda would think poor people here have it pretty good," he said. "A poor child can get a pair of shoes here if needed. An agency or church will provide that."
That is not so in Uganda. He said giving a child another pair of shoes is not as memorable as giving a child their first pair of shoes in Uganda.
"They depend on people like us to have compassion," he said.
Jelks said when he arrives in the villages, he is met by a crowd of mothers seeking shoes for their children.
When he leaves, many will remain barefooted.
Besides shoes, Jelks brings toothpaste and toothbrushes.
"Last year, a woman told me her tube of toothpaste would have to last until I returned," Jelks said.
On his last trip, Jelks had hoped to bring a medical team with him, but the Ebola epidemic led to other travelers canceling their plans.
"Their families didn't want them to go," Jelks said.
Currently, he is seeking somebody to come along this time. He said some are interested, but finances are a problem.
"Ebola is a deadly disease that has always been in Africa, but it had not made the national news before," Jelks said.
He said most of the countries affected by Ebola are on the west side of Africa, and he travels on the east side.
Jelks said helping the people there is God's plan for him.
"People are poor but don't wear it on their face. They are not walking around saying, 'Oh, woe is me.' They love life."
Donated shoes may be left at his store. Anyone interested in getting involved may contact him at email@example.com or 706-249-5639. Financial donations may be made at the website www.tsomf.org.