Help Christmas come early: donate new shoes for homeless kids

Last week, word spread about the upcoming 7th annual Orange County Week of the Family, particularly the “Heart and Sole” project that is seeking to collect 1,000 pairs of new shoes and donate them to kids at the Coalition. The prospect of providing many of our Coalition youngsters with some new school shoes is so exciting for us, and we are anticipating a great return from this effort. Below we have shared a post by Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel, who wanted to be sure her Change the World blog readership knew about this opportunity and how they could get involved. We are sharing so that you can get in on the action, as well!

shoeFor most third-graders, getting a new pair of shoes for school doesn’t exactly rank on the excitement meter with, say, getting a new iPod or your own cell phone. But when you’re in third grade and you live in a homeless shelter – and you’re wearing shoes that are two sizes too small or look like they’ve done time in a swamp – a new pair of shoes is as good as Christmas.

“When you’re struggling just to get basics, everything is a priority. And shoes just don’t last very long – especially for an active 8 year old,” says Brian Nichols, a 40-year-old single dad who is raising his 8-year-old daughter at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. “It’s hard on the parents, but it’s even harder on the children, because they just don’t understand why you can’t buy them things the way you used to.”

That’s why Orange County government and a nonprofit called Week of the Family are teaming up to host a new-shoe drive for local homeless kids. And they need your help. The effort – dubbed “Heart and Sole” – runs through Nov. 7. All shoe sizes are needed, and tennis shoes, gym shoes or sneakers (or whatever you want to call them) are preferred. You can drop them off at any Orange County fire station. Believe me, they’ll go to a good home.

“They get so excited over anything new, even little things,” says Carmen Baldwin, 38, a single of mother of 3 children, ages 6, 10 and 12. It was the 6-year-old, a girl, who was wearing shoes two sizes too small when the family arrived at the shelter four months ago. Carmen’s husband had disappeared one night with all the family’s money. And Carmen’s income as a part-time security guard couldn’t stretch enough for such “luxuries” as new shoes. Her 10-year-old son had shoes that fit, but she says his athleticism created a different problem. “After six months, they stunk,” she says. To replace them with a new pair, she says, would be wonderful for the kids — “and great for my nose.”

Debra Pratt, a volunteer with the Week of the Family Foundation, says the goal is to collect 1,000 pairs of new shoes for kids at the Coalition. If dropping off your donation at a fire station isn’t convenient, you can also bring shoes to any of the Foundation’s Week of the Family events, which start Oct. 31 with the city of Winter Park’s 6th Annual Family Fall Festival and continue through Nov. 7. For a list of events, click here.

To see Kate’s post for yourself, click here.