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Got shoes?

Posted Oct 31 2012 7:00am

I’m a girl (duh). In general, those of my persuasion LOVE shoes. I don’t even want to think about how many pair I own. And I don’t even like heels. I’m just talking about everyday shoes and boots. Shockingly, I’m not the only one with such an affinity for footwear! Pinterest is chock-full of quotes about shoes. Like this one:

and this one:

and my favorite:

I think they’re all true – especially that last one – and that’s never been more apparent to me than in the last few weeks, when I’ve been working with a local non-profit here in Dayton called Shoes 4 the Shoeless .  Maybe I liked shoes before, but now I am absolutely passionate about them. Specifically about putting them on the feet of kids who need them.

“Shoes” as I like to call it, was started about three years ago by some members of my church , or rather some members of a house church within my church. It is 100% volunteer-driven.

Their mission is, quite simply, to provide new, properly fitting gym shoes and socks to local children in need. Even though it is simple, it is a mission with so much weight and importance. There is a great need for this in our city, where about 41% of kids live in poverty.

We have a lot of refugee families in Dayton. Although Shoes 4 the Shoeless does most of their work in schools, they also provide & deliver shoes to the homes of children in refugee families.

You read that right. 41% of the children in my city live in poverty.

I’ve been wanting to volunteer with Shoes 4 the Shoeless for a couple of years, but when I first heard about it, I was giantly pregnant with Jonah and dealing with my developmentally delayed Sophie. I knew the time wasn’t right, but I kept Shoes in my mind and my heart until I could volunteer. This fall, with two of my kids in school all day and no preschool pickup ruling my schedule, I knew it was time! So far, I’ve gone with Shoes 4 the Shoeless three times to deliver and fit shoes on local school kids who need them.

I was hooked the first time.  You guys,these kids have needs. They don’t have shoes that fit or are in any kind of decent shape. Many of them I saw this week were wearing clothes that were not appropriate for this cold weather we are having. I was glad to know that now at least their feet would be warm.

Last week I pulled a size 9 shoe off of a boy who needed a size 11. I PRIED it off, would be a more accurate way to say it. Every day he had to walk around in shoes that were two sizes too small! Can you imagine how much that would hurt? Then this week I took shoes off a girl that were size 9.5. Do you know what size she needed? A twelve. Her shoes were 2.5 sizes too small. That would be like trying to cram my size 7.5 foot into a 5. Every. Single. Day.

Kids can’t learn at school unless they have their basic needs met. How can they learn when their feet are killing them, or they’re so tired because they couldn’t sleep last night because they were cold or hungry? Schools can provide lunch and often breakfast, but they have to look to the community to help meet these other basic needs that their parents cannot or will not meet. (And let me tell you. There are many of  these children whose parents will not meet their children’s needs. Are we “helping” an irresponsible parent by giving their child new shoes? Maybe. But you know what? That child’s situation is not his or her fault.  That child has done nothing wrong. They get new shoes if they need new shoes.) Shoes 4 the Shoeless provides new shoes, socks, and underwear for these kiddos. (The underwear is distributed  more discreetly, usually via the school nurse.)

You guys. They don’t even have underwear.

Volunteering for Shoes is heartbreaking but joyous. One little preschool guy I fitted last week did a dance of joy when he got his Avengers light-up shoes. It’s awesome to see kids soooo happy about their new shoes. It’s painful to watch them tell you “yes, they feel good, they feel fine” and nod their heads vigorously up and down, because they are so afraid of NOT getting a new pair. It’s disturbing to hear a school principal talk about how he, through the local food bank, sends 50 bags of food home with his kids each Friday because otherwise he cannot be sure that they will eat over the weekend.

Despite the hard things, I have left every school where I’ve volunteered grinning from ear to ear. It’s just been so amazing.

If you are local to Dayton I hope you will volunteer for Shoes 4 the Shoeless. Come with me one time and you’ll be hooked! Come with me one time and you won’t be able to stay away! Come change a child’s life just by fitting him or her for a new pair of shoes, by talking to them and by caring about them. I hope you will.

Volunteers rock!

There are other ways to help, though. Do you work at a large company? Attend a local church? Organize a shoe drive for us! Collect NEW shoes, socks and/or underwear for us and we’ll come get ‘em and distribute them in our local school districts to kids that the school officials have identified as needing them. Are you on Facebook? Like Shoes 4 the Shoeless and share their status updates to help spread awareness! There are thousands of kids who need new shoes every year. Because as you know, kids grow out of shoes, and shoes wear out. There is ALWAYS a need.

Don’t want to do any of those things? Consider Shoes for your holiday charitable giving. All donations are tax-deductible and you can donate online .

I would LOVE for any and all of you to join me in this mission. Let’s make a difference in Dayton. Let’s take care of our kids. Let’s just DO it.

Got shoes? Count your blessings! And think about blessing someone who needs them.

Got questions? Ask them in the comments!

 

 

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