DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. - Phil Powell's smile may just be as big as his heart. It was that heart that landed New Manchester High School student in the spotlight after a customer took a photo of Phil standing in his pink socks and posted it to Facebook.
Store manager Mike Kastensmidt did not know Phil was out front greeting Walmart customers with no shoes until a customer called him and informed him she had just seen Phil give his shoes to a stranger.
“Playing dumb, I said ‘Phil what happened to your shoes’ and he said ‘I gave them to a homeless man.’ I said ‘Why would you do that?’ He goes ‘He needed them more than I did.’”
“His wife actually answered for him and said ‘Yes, he needs shoes. He needs them bad.’ He turned around and said ‘Yeah, I need them’ and then he took my shoes and said ‘Thank you, sir.’”
Phil and his siblings knows what it is like to go without. He has walked in those very shoes. His mother, Brenda Patterson, said she packed up her kids and came to Georgia to get away from abuse
“I knew I didn't want them to grow up think it was okay for a man to beat them. And I didn't want Phil to grow up and my other son to grow up thinking ‘I have to beat a woman to say I love them’ so I was trying to break the cycle,” said Patterson.
Since around the time Phil was in the third grade to just recently he's been living in shelters, cars, or motels.
“I tried to keep no matter what we went through, I kept them in school, and I kept them in church. But there were a lot of night I just didn't' know what to do, how to do it, when to do it,” said Patterson.
“It's not an easy life style. I was homeless from third until the 11th grade it was just in and out of hotels, shelters, cars,” said Phil Powell.
He said he hid the fact he was homeless from classmates and just like the homeless man he helped, he too relied on the generosity of others.
“It meant everything to me. If somebody gave me anything I will always cherish and make sure it's clean and neat because I know how much it meant to people,” said Powell.
In fact the very shoes Powell gave away, his pink Converses which he dyed for his godmother with breast cancer, were shoes someone gave him for getting good grades. And he has one message for people who hear his story.
“Everybody have open arms to give to people. Whether you know they need it or just assuming they need it,” Powell said.
Phil's mom could not be more proud of her son. She said she was blessed that her boy turned out to be a pretty good kid.
"I'm proud of my son, very proud of my son."
Phil hopes to join the Navy after High School, but in the meantime, you can find him at Walmart, just being Phil.