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Gifts may give homeless a foothold

Nearly 1,200 new construction-style boots are being distributed this weekend to homeless men throughout Baltimore a holiday effort aimed at helping them land jobs.

The boots were bought and donated by Boots for Baltimore, coordinated by a community outreach group at the Church of the Redeemer, an Episcopal parish on North Charles Street.

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"Homelessness often seems such a huge problem to most people," said Suzanne Wills, co-chair of the project. "I think the response we get is because so many people feel this is a very tangible way they can make a difference. We want

these men to find jobs, and a good pair of boots is something a lot of them need just to be considered for a labor job."

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Church volunteers raised about $30,000 for the project, the most in its eight-year history, organizers said. Donations came from parishioners, corporate sponsors and individuals outside the church.

During the project's first effort in 1987, it raised enough money to buy 500 pairs of boots.

Late last week, 1,168 pairs of boots were taken to 21 nonprofit agencies and church organizations that assist homeless men in Baltimore, said Sherrill Nash, another co-chair of Boots for Baltimore. They, in turn, are distributing them to their clients this weekend.

Organizations receiving boots include St. Ambrose, Christopher Place and Project PLASE (People Lacking Ample Shelter and Employment), Mrs. Nash said.

Bonita Rohr, assistant director of Project PLASE, a Baltimore nonprofit organization that helps homeless men find housing and jobs, and develop life skills, said the boot gifts have made a lot of difference for several of the organization's clients.

"A lot of the men who get these boots absolutely need them to get jobs. Once they land a job they can begin seriously moving away from homelessness," she said.


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