Wichita Faye Evans is losing her eyesight to an auto-immune disease. But she’s focused on shoes.
She wants to collect 333,333 pounds of tennis shoes, high heels, business shoes and boots. She estimates that will be enough to raise $50,000.
She needs the money not for herself but to make hospice rooms comfortable for veterans at the Robert J. Dole VA Hospital.
“If it wasn’t for veterans and soldiers, we wouldn’t have what we have,” Evans said. “We owe them everything.”
So she’s collecting shoes, which she will sell to a thrift center.
She takes any kind of shoe as long as it has a sole and isn’t a Jellie, “because they will melt.”
She has succeeded in her shoe drives before. Three years ago, she raised $7,000 for the VA’s Avenue of Flags project and $5,000 for a minivan that shuttles veterans from Hutchinson to Wichita for the VA.
Last year, she raised $3,000 so the veterans building could have an aviary, which she thought would be therapeutic “for the guys.”
So far, she’s raised $6,000 to equip the hospice rooms and a family room with slices of home life — sleeper sofas for family, small refrigerators and microwaves, flat-screen TVs, paintings and wall hangings, towels and washcloths for the bathrooms.
Evans is well known at the VA hospital in Wichita, where she volunteers.
Volunteers like Evans are essential to the VA, said Deb Brehm, voluntary service specialist at the hospital, because they provide creature comforts.
“One of the things about the VA is that Congress appropriates only so much money for the budget,” Brehm said.
Evans’ donations make the institution feel more like a home, said Laura Taylor, director of extended care at the VA center.
“Instead of institutional medical equipment in the room we will have that but we will also have a headboard in front of every bed, a nice side chair and furniture to outfit the rooms,” Taylor said.
“She is an amazing volunteer for us,” Taylor said. “She is so very energetic, passionate and patriotic. She is one of those kind of quiet people that’s small but mighty.
“When she decides to do something she is very determined. She is what we would call here ‘Mission Focused.’ “
Her eyesight betrays her. Evans, 63, writes notes to herself in handwriting nearly an inch tall.
She has Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disease that threatens her eyesight and forced her to have her thyroid removed.
Already she has had to give up some things. Her balance has been affected, so she can no longer ride her beloved motorcycle as an American Legion Rider.
She is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary. She collects the shoes through American Legion Post 401 in Wichita.
She sometimes enlists the help of churches, schools, Scout troops and 4-H groups. Donors can drop shoes off at the American Legion Post or call Evans and she will come and gather them.
She plans to continue raising money for veterans even after she raises the $50,000.
Next up: $35,000 to pay for honor flights for World War II veterans who want to see the memorial dedicated to them in Washington, D.C.
“We’ve got 700 registered soldiers wanting to go,” Evans said. “It takes $500 per soldier to get them there.
“I need to get this done as soon as possible while I still can.”