MARIANNA, Fla With spring officially here trees and flowers are now ready to blossom. And when it comes to trees in Marianna, there’s one that stands out from 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. It is dedicated to the youth that attended the former Dozier School for Boys… A place where Kelly has a strong connection
Leon Kelly actually worked at Dozier when he was younger. "I started working there as a Parent Professional in the classroom. During that time my feelings about those boys was not only
for them to get their education, but get some education in life because I wanted to be able to see them change their life and be productive citizens."
Kelly began collecting the shoes the Dozier boys left behind. "You can sling it as high as you can sling it."
In 2005 Leon Kelly had a vision to start a shoe tree. A tree that symbolizes Spirit and Hope. Dedicated to the former students of the Dozier School for Boys."
"Hopeful that those boys one day will be able to walk away from crime and I was thinking about that. I said that the shoes was 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."
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."
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.