Hometown Heroes: Stacy Bourgeois

Brought to your by Classic Chevrolet Sugar Land | By M.G. Angulo

The empathetic suggestion of stepping into someone else’s shoes is a sentiment not lost on Stacy Bourgeois, a married mother of three children who lives in Sugar Land.

For some time, Bourgeois has volunteered in midst of homeless men and women, helping them in whatever way she can, and she sees first-hand their struggles and their efforts to keep their heads above water. One image from her early volunteer days that seared itself in her memory, however, was seeing so many of them with inadequate footwear.

Stacy Bourgeois receiving new shoe donations from Caroline Moen and her mom, Mary Heydrick Moen, for this year’s Hope on the Brazos Event.

“I saw so many of our local homeless walking the streets, wearing flip-flops, nothing but socks or worse – completely barefoot,” said Bourgeois. “Many of them had shoes with holes in them, others with duct-taped soles, no laces. They were literally wearing them out.”

So Bourgeois and her fellow volunteers were not surprised when these men and women said that what they most wanted, what they most needed were shoes. “Determined not to allow them to go barefoot, I began collecting shoes, and lots of them,” Bourgeois said.

The more shoes that came, the more needs were being met, and it did not take long for word to spread like wildfire through the community and local schools for shoe donations. For years, Bourgeois determinedly collected shoe donations from friends, neighbors and family. In May 2016, however, with her mission so vividly clear, Bourgeois officially founded Sole Loved.

Sole Loved is a local nonprofit that collects and distributes new and gently used shoes to anyone in need.  “While our focus began as a mission for our local homeless friends, it has grown into a passion for helping local children and families in our very own community,” Bourgeois said. “We work very closely with local school nurses and community social workers to make sure that every child, sibling and parent who needs a new-to-them and wearable pair of shoes, has one.”

Bourgeois, who volunteers with the homeless in Downtown Houston, Richmond and Rosenberg, has also taught each of her children the importance of helping others. “We provide the homeless with food, fellowship and basic toiletry needs, and of course, shoes,” she said. “We are also very active in our church, and spend time volunteering with Friends of North Richmond and traveling on international mission trips.”

All three of her children also volunteer for Sole Loved. “There is a huge on-going and continuous need for shoes,” Bourgeois said of Sole Loved’s role in the community. “We get calls almost every day during the school year from school nurses asking for shoes for one, and sometimes multiple, kiddos.  If you have children, you know how fast their little feet grow, and how quickly they can simply just wear them out,” she added. “And new shoes aren’t cheap! If you don’t have a good pair of shoes that fit, or don’t have shoes at all, you most likely aren’t going to go to school or work.”

Sharing her favorite quote by Mother Teresa, Bourgeois said: “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” And Bourgeois imbues her work with plenty of love, which is evident in the response she receives.

“I absolutely love the smiles and hugs I get from the recipients of our shoes,” she said. “It completely melts my heart to know that we are doing good and bringing hope to others through a new pair of shoes. I know that we are truly making a difference.”

For the second consecutive year, Sole Loved participated in Lamar Consolidated ISD’s “Hope on the Brazos” event held in July, and it was an experience that testifies to the need for non-profits like Sole Loved. “It was an amazing event where we served hundreds of families in the community, providing new and gently used shoes to over 900 local school children,” she said.

Sole Loved will participate in another event in September at Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center in Houston, “with many more to follow,” Bourgeois added.

While Sole Loved is a personal mission of hers, Bourgeois said people can, and should, volunteer in any capacity.  “I believe that volunteering encourages compassion and authentic understanding for those in the community that may be struggling or just need a helping hand,” she said. “Our future generations need to see and feel that there is still good in this world and that a true love for others, unbiased and unjudged, is obtainable. Volunteering does that. You will never regret being kind.”

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