Kristen Wert was impressed that major league baseball player Josh Reddick donated brand-new shoes and clothing to the Treutlen House at New Ebenezer on Friday.
She was even more impressed that Reddick stuck around afterward to spend time with the boys who live at the group home. He posed for pictures and played basketball with them in the back yard.
“It was good for the boys to see him, and he had a good time with them,” said Wert, the Treutlen House director. “He didn’t just come and give it to them and leave. He said, ‘Now what do y’all want to do?’ It wasn’t just all about publicity; it was about coming and spending time with them.”
Reddick, the Oakland Athletics’ right fielder and a South Effingham High School graduate, donated shoes, jackets, pullovers and socks provided by his shoe sponsor, New Balance. New Balance gives Reddick funding each year for charitable efforts, and he helped the Treutlen House through his non-profit foundation.
“Why not start in your hometown with a place that’s been established for so many years?” Reddick said. “It’s nothing too major, but anything we can do to give back that’s going to be appreciated, it’s always a big bonus.”
Reddick recalled learning about the Treutlen House while he was growing up in Effingham County. Just down the road from the home for boys in the foster care system, Reddick attended summer camp at the New Ebenezer Retreat Center.
“This is the first thing that came to mind,” he said. “The Treutlen House is just the one thing that I remember us raising money for across the street at vacation Bible school, and you heard about it a lot growing up. We’re just trying to help these kids out, maybe give them a little lift.”
The Josh Reddick Foundation contacted Wert before Christmas about making the donation, and asked for the boys’ shoe sizes. The shoes arrived last week, and Reddick made the in-person delivery.
As he prepares for his seventh major-league season, Reddick continues to make Effingham his offseason home. He has been back in town since the Athletics’ season ended in October with a 12-inning loss to the Kansas City Royals in the wild-card playoff round.
“My parents raised me to be a person that didn’t forget where he came from,” Reddick said. “I’m gone for so long, I really look forward to coming back to it. This is home.”
Nine boys currently are living at the Treutlen House. Donations from the community are always welcome, Wert said.
“We have needs year-round, whether it’s clothing, hygiene products, bedding,” she said. “That’s our biggest one right now, is wanting some new bedding.”