With spring officially here trees the flowers are now ready to blossom but one tree in Marianna stands out from all the rest.
Leon Kelly has been the owner of Buy's Shoe Shine Shop for over 30 years now but right next to his business is a neighborhood masterpiece like none other. A shoe tree dedicated to the youth that attended the former Dozier School for Boys, a place where Kelly has a strong connection.
"I started working there as a parent professional in the classroom. During that time my feel about those boys was not only for them to get their education but to get some education in life because I wanted to be able to see them change their life and be productive citizens," said Kelly.
So Kelly began collecting the shoes the boys left behind. In 2005 Leon Kelly had a vision to start a shoe tree, a tree that symbolizes spirit and hope.
"I’m hopeful that those boys one day will be able to walk away from crime. I was thinking about that, I said that the shoes were hanging in the tree symbolizing that those boys are still hanging in there and they are doing the great things to stay out of trouble," said Kelly.
Over 300 shoes are hanging on and around the tree. Kelly says that all shoes point outward meaning that there is a chance for each boy to walk away from crime and be a productive citizen.
"The boy's that attended Dozier not all of them were bad kids… those guys have something within them. They just needed the guidance to bring it out," said Kelly.
And that's what this tree continues to stand for, a tribute showing the community that someone cared. The tree of Spirit and Hope is located on the corner of Orange and Graham streets in Marianna.