By KATIE KENNEDY, Advocate staff writer
Published: Jul 25, 2010 - Page: 1B
Click here to donate to 2013 Kicks for Kids Back to School Shoe Program.
As Zelda Carter and her family entered the Payless Shoe Store on Florida Boulevard on Saturday, Carter immediately hugged the two people standing nearest the door.
“This is such a blessing,” Carter told Deacon Richard Grant of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church and Carol Spruell of Catholic Charities, as they laughed along with her.
Carter’s 4-year-old granddaughter was among the nearly 1,000 school-aged children to receive a free, new pair of shoes during the third annual “Kicks for Kids” Back to School program.
“It was coming close to the start of school, and a lot of parents were wondering where they were going to get the money,” Carter said. “This just gives me chills I’m so thankful.”
Grant said several local charities provided school supplies and uniforms for area schoolchildren, but there were no resources to help put new shoes on their feet.
“A lot of kids start the school year in their brother or sister’s hand-me-downs,” Grant said. “But their classmates will have a brand-new pair of shoes to show off. That’s important to kids.”
With the donations from Our Lady of Mercy parishioners, Grant teamed up with Catholic Charities and Payless to fill that void.
Grant sends out 1,000 vouchers for free shoes each year to clients of Catholic Charities, all of whom are at or below the poverty level.
Payless stocks up on certain styles and sizes the youngsters need and opens up five of its store locations early on the day of the event, said Eric Childers, district manager for the store.
The program takes a lot of coordination and prep work, Grant said, but the payoff is worth the effort.
“The whole day, the children come up and open their shoebox, saying ‘look what I got,’ ” Grant said. “They’re just proud as punch. And I’ll get a lot of thank-you letters and calls next week.”
Carter said she plans to make candy bouquets for the organizers and said her fair share of thank-yous as she and her family left the store, shopping bags in hand.
Christopher Daigre, 7, and his brother, Courtney, 9, perused the aisles, searching for the perfect shoes to wear to their first day of classes on Aug. 11.
Christopher picked out a pair of white tennis shoes with a flame design on the side, smiling as he tried them on and his mother felt the toe for wiggle room.
“This will help out a lot,” said the boys’ mother, Chrissie Robinson.
The economy took a toll on the amount donated by the church parishioners this year, but organizers continued their no-price-limit policy.
“They don’t have to look at a price tag,” Grant said. “They can just pick the pair they want and have that even start on the first day of school.”