Shallow pails of warm water were set down on the floor, and volunteer Cristy Adams watched as dozens of people plunged in with their feet.
Sitting on the floor and taking a scrub brush to a pair of feet, Adams was one of 65 volunteers on Thursday who washed the feet of the homeless. More than 100 people arrived at the Veterans Memorial Building, 112 W. Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara, for the Fourth Annual InterFaith Santa Barbara Homeless Foot Washing hosted by WillBridge of Santa Barbara, which has sponsored the event for the past four years.
Foot-washing events throughout the world are held on the Thursday before Easter, emulating the New Testament passage that describes Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Last year, 280 people were served and given new shoes and socks as part of Santa Barbara’s event.
On Thursday, people were welcomed into the hall and served breakfast, and then could choose to have their feet washed.
Adams, a member of New Life Church, said she had taken time off work to come to the event. Looking around the room at the volunteers and homeless, she said, “People are just really thankful.”
Each guest received a new pair of shoes and two pairs of socks, along with a bag of toiletries and a sack lunch. Attendees were also given the opportunity to connect with social workers, medical staff and mental health outreach workers after the event.
When asked what she would like people to come away with after attending the event, Adams said she hopes they know that they’re loved.
“I’m no better than them,” she said. “If I was in the same situation, I would hope that someone would humble themselves to do the same for me.”
Santa Barbara City Councilman Grant House was among the ranks of those who washed feet Thursday. He has participated in the event for the past three years, and said he was moved by the immediate experience of kinship.
“I cannot adequately convey the gift each of the people who allowed us to wash his or her feet gave us this morning,” he said.
A handful of women from New Life worked in the back of the room to give manicures to homeless women, painting their nails in pinks, reds and purples.
“The shoes were especially helpful,” said Vanessa Garnica, who had her nails varnished a deep purple. She said she’ll be able to buy her 4-year-old son shoes with money she would have had to split between both of them.
WillBridge Executive Director Lynelle Williams said the yearly event provides an outreach to those who need it most.
“This is about letting the homeless population know that we see them and we love them,” she said. “We’re extending our hands, hoping that people will reach back.”