A foot is resting in Shirley Spence’s lap.
The LPN wears a white coat and mask as she sprays her client’s toes with a cleansing rinse then a softener aimed at calluses.
“A callus is actually protection on our feet against a shoe that might not fit well,” said Spence.
Spence offers free foot care at the Summerside Baptist Church on Church Street once a week.
“I live my life for God, so it is an adventure. If He’s going to take me this far, He’s not going to leave me stranded, I can’t imagine,” she said, from a rocking chair next to her temporary foot care station in the church nursery.
Three years ago, Spence’s life and finances changed abruptly. Alone and in her 60s, she was working part-time but needed more, so she did some research.
“There’s a great need for foot care. With a nursing background, I took a course over in Moncton,” said Spence.
In her training, she got to work with clients with a variety of needs.
Back on P.E.I., Spence set up a clinic in Slemon Park that operates three days a week by appointment.
Combined with private nursing contracts, she can make ends meet.
For the past year, Spence has been able to offer free foot care on Thursday afternoons. It’s open to everyone, and Spence hopes to reach those who need help but don’t have health insurance.
“I don’t have a lot of money to give to the church,” she said. “So, I thought I could give back by doing this."
Lead pastor Cory Somers said their church family has been looking for new ways to give.
“Last year, we really made a concerted effort for people to use and serve with what’s in their hands,” said Somers. “For Shirley, she was a foot care nurse.”
Since starting the free clinic, she’s made a difference in the community, said Somers.
“Some people don’t have the resources to be able to afford foot care, so this is a little help for them. It doesn’t replace the foot care that’s given through other agents, but it may fit a need for people that struggle to find means to pay for it in other contexts,” said Somers.
So, on Thursday afternoons, Spence gets to work.
First, she inspects the nails, cleaning and trimming if needed and then gently files down any thickened skin.
“As we age, our nails change, our feet change,” said Spence.
Some appointments are basic foot care for people who simply need help with tasks like trimming their nails, perhaps due to mobility issues.
Specialty treatments include help for ingrown toenails – she can fix ingrown nails that aren’t too inflamed – as well as help with calluses or thickened nails.
Diabetic foot care is more involved.
“Circulation slows down if you’re diabetic. We’re checking on possible knicks and cuts, we’re checking of loss of sensation and ulcers,” said Spence.
Despite the temporary nature of the set-up, Spence pays close attention to hygiene.
Surfaces are cleaned between each client and tools sent for cleaning after each pair of feet.
She does her own sterilization and it’s a two-step process.
Altogether, it’s a lot of work, but Spence says it’s just second nature.
“People say I’m doing such a great thing here, but I don’t think I am because I’m getting more. I’m getting to know these people, we laugh, we pray, we cry in here. It’s just serving me more than them, really,” said Spence.
“If Jesus could do it, there’s no reason why I can’t, right?”