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'I want to keep planting seeds': Generosity spreads after liquor store employee gives man shoes off her feet

Ta Leia Thomas didn't think anyone would ever find out what happened that day, but her boss found the selfless act on security footage and shared it with the world.

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — Ta Leia Thomas — better known as Ace — was working at the front of a Brooklyn Center liquor store last Tuesday when she saw a homeless man without shoes. Ace watched him make a pair out of some boxes, trying desperately to cover his feet in the bitter cold. 

That's when she unlaced her priceless, retro Air Jordans and got them onto his feet.

"I tell everybody I didn't even care about the shoes, I cared about that man," Ace told KARE 11's Jana Shortal. "I felt like if somebody was able to give one person a chance, the world can be a better place."

But the thing is, she had no idea the world would ever know, nor did she intend to tell anyone.

Ace had just intended to go about her day — without shoes, but with pride.

"I was gonna walk home in my socks, and I live across the street. I didn't care about the shoes, I have shoes at home. I was like, 'OK, replacements.' I just look at it as replacements," she said.

By the time she got home, her boss saw what she did on the store's security cameras and shared the story of her selflessness.

And since then, replacements have come — tenfold.

A stranger came to the store Tuesday and gave her custom, brand-new Air Jordans and gift cards for her family.

And on Wednesday, a package came from the Jordan brand. Inside were three pairs of the most iconic sneakers in the world.

But that wasn't all.

"We were inspired by Ace's story of giving a man her own shoes," said Mark Zobel with the Brooklyn Center Community Emergency Assistance Program.

The program, Zobel said, has now launched "Ace's Winter Drive."

"We are going to be dropping off some donation barrels here at the store for people who want to come by and maybe donate mittens or scarves or coats or shoes — people who want to help out just like Ace did," said Zobel.

In one week's time, Ace's one act has proven to be contagious.

"I feel like, honestly, giving that man a pair of shoes is like I planted a seed in the soil and now it's blooming to something more beautiful," Ace said. "I want to keep planting seeds so that it's blooming all over."

She beamed when she imagined the blooms, which begs the question: What does she want for herself in this life?

"I want to become as great as my mom has when she was helping everybody," Ace said, adding, "She helped so many people in last 16-20 years. I want to keep that same fire in my heart that I was born with, and I don't want to stop until I have done something that makes me feel like a better person every day."

But the good won't end with sneakers. Her retro Jordans were purple because she is a huge Vikings fan.

So, come Saturday, she will go as a guest of the team to her very first game at U.S. Bank stadium.

And who knows? There may be more surprises in store for her then.

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