Good deed: BNSF Railway workers in Temple donate used boots

TEMPLE, Texas (AP) — Something as simple as a pair of secondhand steel-toe boots can mean the world to an individual who has been out of work for a while.

The Temple Daily Telegram reports many industries require that their employees wear boots to protect against foot injuries.

BNSF Railway workers in Temple began collecting the footwear from staff where the boots are required.

Cary Cox, BNSF machinist, learned from his wife, Christy, a case manager at Feed My Sheep, that she was working with a man who had a job offer, if he could get a pair of steel-toe boots.

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Most of people Christy works with get their secondhand boots at Churches Touching Lives for Christ, but on that particular day they didn’t have his size.

Christy called Cary to find out if he had a pair of old boots with him, which he did and then delivered to Feed My Sheep.

“I watched that man run down the sidewalk, boots in hand, to Churches Touching Lives for Christ, where he received a new pair of jeans and shirt to wear to his new job,” Cary Cox said.

Later, Cox donated another pair of boots to Chris Ballard at CTLC. Ballard is now serving as director of the food pantry following the death of Jim Hornsby, CTLC director for many years. Before she took on the director’s mantle, Ballard could be found behind the counter in the western part of the building where the donated clothes are on display.

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John Dalton is the chairman of the leadership advisory team at Temple BNSF.

“We, the machinist side of the organization, were trying to find a way to give back to the community,” Dalton said. “Cary told us how he had donated the two pair of steel-toe boots and we decided that would be a good project.”

The program began in April and has been a success, he said.

Those who work at BNSF, which is based in Fort Worth, are required to wear the protective footwear and receive a voucher annually for new boots.

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“You don’t always wear out your boots in a year, so some of these boots have some life left in them,” Dalton said. “A lot of us have a number of boots just sitting in the garage.”

Second Chance Boots will get those boots on others’ feet and back to work, rather than being tossed in the garbage, he said.

The individuals receiving the boots become productive members of the community and a lot can happen when a person feels like they are working their way up, Cox said.

“When those guys leave CTLC with their boots and new clothes their self-esteem has risen so high they believe they can go out and make a difference in the world,” he said. “That’s what we should be doing in the community, giving people hope.”

The jobs at BNSF in Temple are varied. There are mechanical positions where the individuals work on rail cars. Machinist and electricians work on the locomotives and there are laborers that move and clean the equipment.

The transportation department, the people who actually run the trains, account for a number of boots and are willing to donate.

The railway changes out crews at the Temple Fuel Pad and 30 to 50 trains come through there each day.

The program coordinators provided information about Second Chance Boots to the people who hold the daily job safety briefings. Boxes for the donated boots are at each location.

Ballard said she gets notifications from employment agencies if there is a job posting that requires steel-toe boots.

Robert Gortarez, with CenTex Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center, has been working with Ballard for months to get steel-toe boots for his clients.

Gortarez is a community liaison for CenTex so he’s continuously looking for jobs for CenTex clients. Most of those jobs required steel-toe boots.

“Many of the guys come into our facility with nothing, maybe $10 or less in their pocket, and they don’t have the means to buy work boots or clothes,” Gortarez said.

CTLC will provide new jeans and hygiene supplies, he said. Once they get the job we’ll return to CTLC and get the steel-toe boots.

“We house up to 84 men at any given time for a two-month or three-month stay,” he said.

“The clothes and the boots are means of survival,” Gortarez said.

Some of the residents have skills and they can easily get work at a fast food restaurant, but they’ll do much better financially if they can get a job using their skills, he said.

Ryan Tanner and Jessie Teague, members of the Leadership Advisory Team, spent time pitching the idea of Second Chance Boots to BNSF employees.

“We wanted them to know it was all for a good cause,” Teague said.

Second Chance Boots is a perfect reflection of BSNF’s commitment to the communities where its employees live and work, said Jeanelle Davis, BNSF regional director of public affairs.

“They’re taking something that they use every day and giving it to people who need it most,” Davis said. “What they are doing could make a difference in someone getting a job.”

The program also emphasizes that safety is a core value of BNSF, she said.

“We’d like to see this extend beyond Temple,” said Cox. “I believe in other communities where BNSF has rail yards the employees can identify other organizations doing similar work.”


Information from: Temple (Texas) Daily Telegram,