Local Spotlight: Shoes 4 the Shoeless

This nonprofit provides properly fitting, new gym shoes to Southwest Ohio children in need.

We know that correctly fitting gym shoes are essential for a child’s physical development, but they are also a sign of social status. Worn and ill-fitting shoes can lead to physical, social and emotional problems for kids. 

Locally, more than 50% of children live at or below the poverty line. That’s where Shoes 4 the Shoeless steps in and fills the gap — they have provided well-fitting shoes and socks for more than 140,000 children in Southwest Ohio over the past 12 years. Southwest Ohio Parent spoke to Jonathan Hauge, engagement and fundraising director for Shoes 4 the Shoeless, to learn more about how they help provide new shoes to kids who need them.

How do you find children who need your help?

Transportation is a considerable challenge for a child in poverty when getting access to help. We work directly with school officials to identify children who need help. Properly fitting shoes and socks in good condition are the biggest unmet need for a child in poverty. Many organizations provide new coats, food, clothing, etc. Some of those organizations offer gently used items. We believe that children deserve shoes that are brand-new, not just brand-new to them.

Do you have special programs coming up for the holidays and beyond?

December is traditionally one of our busiest months. We have a full schedule of school-based deliveries and add in a couple of fun events where we throw Christmas parties at group homes for children who suffered abuse and neglect. We provide shoes, socks, food and presents at these parties.

Tell us about Shoes 4 the Shoeless school-based truck deliveries.

By going directly to a school, we eliminate the transportation need for children. They are already there! Our truck arrives loaded with more shoes than needed that day, and we set up a mobile shoe store inside the school gym. Bringing in 40-50 volunteers, we size, pick out, and fit children for shoes. It is controlled chaos filled with fun energy, caring adults and teens at the feet of children, laughter and joy. Children often tell us that “this is my first pair of new shoes.” We see children come to school wearing broken hand-me-downs, parents’ shoes, or even slippers, as that is all they have. A typical delivery will provide anywhere from 75 to 300 pairs of shoes to children in a school building.

How can people volunteer with Shoes 4 the Shoeless?

To make two to three school-based deliveries work each week, we recruit 400 to 500 volunteers per month! The time commitment is typically from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and we provide on-site training on the day of the event before it starts. People can fill out an application to volunteer.

Are there ways for local businesses to get involved?

We have many businesses that support S4TS by “adopting” a school through sponsorship. Often, they will send a team of employees to volunteer that day as a team-building event. We would love to talk to more organizations about getting involved this way!

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