Organizers are hoping to gather 600 pairs of shoes to help Carson City's needy school children.
Carson City School District Homeless Advocate Kim Riggs said she was amazed and heartbroken when she discovered some children were wearing shoes three sizes too small.
"These situations are really sad," said Riggs. "You wonder how this child can even walk with shoes that are so tight on their feet.
"My father is a podiatrist and he used to always ream me for wearing bad shoes."
Now in its fifth year, the program began with a phone call to Riggs from a school counselor who needed a pair of shoes for one of her students. The program supplied shoes to 434 students last year.
Autumn Smith, manager of Payless Shoe Source, has assured Riggs they will meet their goal of 600 pairs of shoes.
"I know this is the only time some kids get shoes," said Smith. "And that is pathetic. And hand-me-down shoes don't work.
"We had 575 pairs (of shoes purchased) last year. With having 600 or more, we can put the extra into the Clothes Closet so if someone is in need later in the year, they can go to Kim and get a pair.
"We'd like to have a variety of styles and sizes of shoes, so I need to encourage everyone to buy more (shoes) for them this year. But no sandals. We need practical shoes for the kids."
The shoe drive coincides with the half-off sale at Payless Shoe Source, which ends Monday. A basket of names and shoe sizes is available at the store and Smith will store the purchased shoes until Riggs can hand them out to the children.
"I really encourage the community to get our 'Smart Fit' shoes," said Smith. "They are designed by a podiatrist and have adequate support, toe expansion and come in great styles. And since the company has no middle man, we can pass on the savings to the customer.
"And if the customer has any doubts as to what shoe to select, they can ask our employees and they would be happy to help them out.
"What I want people to know is, this is all for the kids. They need this. The kids can use socks, also."
Mike Watty, associate superintendent of education services, said the project brings the community together.
"It's a win-win situation for everybody," said Watty.
"Kim is responsible for the direction and success of the program. And, the program is gaining national attention. She's had groups from around the nation call her and ask her how she does the program. The word's gotten out, I guess.
"And, I must add the importance of community support. Without the support, the program would not be successful."
Smith said athletic shoes are most needed. Her staff will help pick out shoes that are most hip.
"It's important the shoes be hip for the kids," said Smith. "So they are not embarrassed or teased by others. We know what kids are wearing today, what's hot. We really enjoy doing this and I will continue the program until all 600 pairs of shoes have been purchased."
Riggs needs the shoes in stock by March 21. She will be handing them out March 22, just before students go on Spring Break.
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