Shoes That Fit is a 20-year-old charitable organization that makes sure kids in need have access to brand-new shoes. But more importantly, it describes itself as a charity that helps children improve their self-esteem. With only six employees, but an army of nationally-based volunteers, the nonprofit recently mobilized to help one Brooklyn-area school recover from Hurricane Sandy.
Local PTA president Gina Dacchille explained in a recent public statement, "After the families were allowed to return to their homes, they were able to salvage clothing by rewashing them, but shoes were just destroyed."
Shoes That Fit answered the call, and working with partner John McGovern of Forde-McGovern Associates, measured 257 kids from PS 253 for new—and most importantly, dry—footwear.
Sure, “providing new footwear” may not sound as dazzling as providing something like iPads, but if you’ve ever grown up not having enough money for necessities, it’s easy to understand why something like shoes are arguably more crucial to kids’ well-being. It's not just a health issue, it's an issue of self-worth.
Shoes That Fit's Executive Director Roni Lomeli explained to TakePart, “When kids don’t have proper shoes…it causes a lot of teasing. Having a pair of shoes allows them to not worry about being teased and they can focus more on their studies and not on their circumstances.”
Lomeli says that in recent years, the down economy has created an environment where lacking even an extra $10 for shoes is becoming more the norm for many families. “If there’s a choice between food and shoes, food is always going to win. Shoes are just the last thing. Kids can wear hand me down clothes, that’s easier, but shoes are a different story.”
Others see the need as well. Churches in Orlando recently united to provide kids with over 12,000 pairs of new shoes. And others like TOMS Shoes have built an entire culture out of providing footwear for kids all over the world. TOMS has so far given over a million shoes to children from various countries, which not only provides comfort but also further protection from disease.
TOMS may be a global operation, but Lomeli says there are plenty of opportunities to help kids locally. “What we’re hoping to do is to get people interested enough to help kids in the community in which they live. Because our program can be anywhere. It’s very simple to start up. There’s kids in every community that need help.”