Bette Midler once said, “I firmly believe that with the right footwear, one can rule the world.”
The Kiwanis Club of Longmont is dedicated to its mission of “serving the children of the world” through many projects, one of which is setting aside a small yearly budget to provide certificates for shoes for children.
The Shoe for Kids program has been a Kiwanis tradition since 1990. The club has handed out over 100 vouchers to The Wild Plum Center, The Inn Between and Safe Shelter of St. Vrain over the years. This year it added Indian Peaks Elementary after it learned of a need, said Ken White, Shoes for Kids program lead for the club.
Finding clothing resources for families experiencing poverty can be difficult, said Kristi Pellouchoud, family service director for Wild Plum Center. “Shoes, particularly, are often a challenge for parents because used shoes may not be appropriate and new shoes are expensive, especially as children grow so quickly.”
The club gives 10 vouchers to each organization each year. The certificates are distributed to families identified by the organizations. After receiving a certificate the family can redeem it at both Longmont Walmart locations.
“This shoe voucher program through Walmart takes the pressure off parents financially because they can direct their limited resources to other needs,” said Laura Liotino associate and development director for Inn Between.
After the child finds a pair of shoes, the adult with them takes the certificate and the shoes to the courtesy counter at Walmart. There the family can redeem $15 of the price of the shoes and any remaining balance is the responsibility of the family.
“Being able to go to the store and choose a new pair of shoes for their children gives families a dignified experience and fulfills a need,” Pellouchoud said.
However, it isn’t only parents who benefit from the situation. Caregivers get joy out of the experience, too.
“Children love new shoes. Seeing the children enter the classroom with a smile, showing their new shoes is very gratifying. The parents share the smiles. Recently a 3-year-old came in with his new navy blue sneakers and said, ‘Wait until we go to the playground — I can run so fast now,’” Pellouchoud said.
White visits each organization at the beginning of October to hand out certificates. Each certificate is good through Sept. 30 of the following year.
According to White, not every year sees 100% redemption of the certificates but at least 10 out of the 30 certificates are redeemed each year. This year the program has seen all certificates given to the Wild Plum Center redeemed, White said, but other organizations don’t usually report back until the end of the year.
“It seems like the use of these certificates has gone down over the last three or four years. I don’t know why that is,” White said.
Pellouchoud said the Wild Plum Center doesn’t have any other resource that fills this need for struggling families.
“Anytime the community reaches out to help with school supplies or other needs it is a tremendous help. It not only accomplishes lessening financial burdens for families, but it is an inspiration,” said Liotino.
White said that the Kiwanis club expects this program to continue into the future as they continue to support their mission of serving the children of the world, beginning with Longmont.