WAXAHACHIE — Southwestern Assemblies of God Unversity, in partnership with The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Waxahachie, began a push to raise funds for shoes for area students on Wednesday.

Mission trips are no stranger to SAGU athletes as they routinely spend summers in impoverished areas in Africa and South America trying to fill the most important of needs.

Covarrubias and the Lady Lions' cross country team, however, found a reason to stay within the country's borders and help a city near and dear to their hearts.

"We go on mission trips every summer, but this year we decided our efforts were best served at home and in the community," said Jason Covarrubias, the university's head men's and women's cross country coach. "There are a lot of things kids need for school — back packs, pencils, pens and shoes. We wanted to give the kids shoes because they're important to us. Shoes get us where we need to go, keep us safe and allow us to be successful in the classroom and on the road."

The SAGU-Salvation Army is looking to collect enough money — $5,000 or $50 per shoe — to buy 100 pairs of footwear in various children and preen-teen sizes, noting he will use local businesses like Academy, Hibbett Sports, JC Penney and Shoe Carnival for purchases.

Covarrubias said the current online format was an adjustment to the original after conversations with Academy's corporate office to place a stand in the store so residents could buy shoes and leave them at the location at their convenience fell through.

Famous Footwear located at 1445 U.S. Highway 77 in Waxahachie, too, declined to step into the mix and allow the use of their location as a site for the fundraiser. The location's management will, however, allow SAGU to purchase bulk shoes under the "buy one, get one half off" and the "additional 15 percent off" tags.

Despite the lack of a physical location, donations for the drive can be made through the Shoe Locker website, located online at sagu.edu/back2school. Donations go directly to SAGU for purchases that will be made the Thursday after the midnight Aug. 9 fundraiser deadline.

Covarrubias credited the Salvation Army of Waxahachie — especially its Boys and Girls Program Director Teresa Evans and Lieutenant Robert Coriston — for opening their doors and taking the first step towards the creation of the drive.

"[Covarrubias] originally met up with Lt. Coriston, the Salvation Army's corps officer that's stationed here," Evans said. "He brought the idea to Lt. Robert who then brought the idea to me. We have more than 80 children enrolled in our summer day camp program. Many come from Palmer, Midlothian and Waxahachie ISDs. The drive will benefit not only those students but also ones volunteering in the Salvation Army Corps kids program."

Any donations that exceed the $5,000 margin will be used to purchase shoes for students in the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club's after-school program — which consists of primarily Waxahachie ISD students from kindergarten to high school.

A mixture of children that are on a reduced-rate scholarship come from unfortunate situations or single-parent family homes struggling to make ends meet.

"It may be a pair of shoes to someone, but I've had children come in this summer that don't have closed-toe shoes and can't participate in some of our activities because it's not safe for them," Evans said.

The parents of one child had to choose between purchasing a $12 ticket for Urban Air in Waxahachie or make a house payment while others couldn't participate in activities because they didn't own closed-toe shoes.

"Finding a pair of shoes in their bag that they can wear at home or here brightens their day," she continued. "It means that much to them."

Evans, whose desk sat to the left of a book shelf and a pair of pink and blue sneakers purchased for one of those students, said the Boys and Girls Club and the donations it gets and drives it holds exists to help combat for those situations.

Though she has only held the position since March, she said she hopes the drive helps get them, the club's community benefits and their location at 620 Farley Street in Waxahachie back on county residents radar.

For Covarrubias and the Lady Lions, though, giving aid is about more than dollars and cents, books and shoes, pens and pencils or the pair of hand-painted lockers that could hold more than 100 pairs of much-needed footwear for Ellis County's future leaders, doctors, lawyers and business owners. It's about the community to the aid of your community when it needs you and spreading strength through the act of Christian charity.

"The main thing is that we wanted to give back the the kids," he mused. "There's two times of the year that families really struggle. Christmas is one of them. This is for those parents that have four of five kids and are struggling to pay $100 to $200 per kid on back to school stuff. It's expensive. We're just trying to help lighten that load by providing shoes."

----   Marcus S. Marion is the sports editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light and Midlothian Mirror. He can be reached by phone at (469) 517-1456 or across social media platforms @MarcusSMarion.