Big Creek People in Action in McDowell County, West Virginia has long been a partner of Americans Helping Americans® as we have worked together to provide needy children with backpacks filled with school supplies, and warm coats, hats and gloves to keep them warm all winter long as they wait outside on school day mornings for their bus to arrive, and attend free afterschool and summer camp programs.
Now, through our Barefeet program, for this first time this year we hope to be providing them with grant funding to purchase a brand new pair of shoes this fall for every child in their afterschool program.
“This would be a new program for us,” BCPIA co-executive director Dyanne Spriggs stated in her request for grant funding through our Barefeet program. “Although we have a family pantry with clothing, shoes, food and household items, almost all the shoes we receive from the community for our pantry are already worn out.”
Dyanne noted that the people on public assistance do get a clothing voucher, “but some of them do not purchase their child shoes,” while others on public assistance do not receive clothing vouchers.
“We would like to take the 30 kids who participate in our afterschool and summer camp programs to a shoe store and let them pick out a pair of washable tennis shoes that they will like – and actually fit,” says Dyanne. “Because we will have to travel to a neighboring county to buy the shoes, we will make a day trip of it.”
The need for a simple pair of new shoes for children in McDowell County is great, she explained. In many, if not most, cases a single pair of shoes may be handed down from three children in a family.
“Poverty statistics in our county clearly show the need for kids’ shoes. Often, the most visible sign of poverty is the condition of the child’s shoes. Without a good pair of shoes, kids feel embarrassed, discouraged, or left out – simply because they lack something most of us take for granted.
“Kids are always growing. Many kids around here do not have a proper-fitting, supportive pair of shoes. This will ensure their safety, ease their discomfort of wearing ill-fitting shoes, and increase their self-confidence.
“This would be the first time we will be involved with letting the kids we serve pick out their very own brand-new shoes,” which she expects will cost just $30 per child.
In Beattyville, Kentucky, the Lee County Family Resource Center, located in the local elementary school, has been a recipient of Barefeet program grant funding for several years.
Family Resource Center coordinator Paige Denniston describes its mission as to “work with parents, children, grandparents and guardians to reduce non-academic barriers for children. We work to provide shoes, clothing, school supplies, food, housing, counseling and other forms of service.”
Paige notes that that small town of Beattyville, population around 1,200, has been named “one of the hardest places to live” by The New York Times based on poverty rates and household income, education levels, unemployment and life expectancy.
“Due to these factors, many of our children do not even have the basic needs, and items such as warm clothes, shoes and school supplies are not considered needs – they are considered luxuries.”
Paige says that “students who are deemed by the Family Resource Center, staff and local community assistance organizations to be in dire need of a pair of new shoes (and the boost in self-esteem that would accompany receiving this basic necessity), would be taken to a local business to purchase a pair of shoes that fit properly, and are age appropriate, allowing for long-term use.
“With 85 percent of students qualifying for the free lunch program, poverty is a significant factor in their daily lives,” she added. “Often students come to school with shoes that rub blisters on their feet due to improper sizing.
“Every student who receives a pair of shoes may very well be receiving their first brand new pair of shoes ever.”