In an open letter to potential donors, New Shoes for Christmas campaign organizers say there’s nothing new to this, the 27th year of the program.
Since 1987, members of the Pairs and Spares Sunday School group at First Presbyterian Church in Rockingham have organized a campaign to outfit as many children in kindergarten through fifth grade in a new pair of shoes only a few weeks before Christmas.
The goal is to cover some 8,000 toes with 800 new pairs of shoes. Dr. John Stevenson, one of the Sunday School class members, said he knows it’s enough enough.
“The need is more than 800,” Stevenson said.
What the group does is limited only by the donations it receives from the community. In a partnership with Richmond County Schools and two local shoe stores, selected children are given a certificate to take to JC Penney or The Shoe Department in Rockingham to get a new pair of kicks.
Stevenson said that, for some of the children, it’s their only chance at getting a new pair of shoes.
“It’s a win-win-win,” Stevenson said of the partnership.
Organizers estimate nearly 17,000 pairs of shoes have been purchased for Richmond County youth since the program was started by the late Charles White. Harriet Wallace, for one, isn’t surprised.
“Rockingham is a small town, but when there’s a need, people come together,” said the manager at The Shoe Department.
Wallace has assisted the program in one way or almost every single year, including the last 15 at her current place of employment. Wallace has the children line up and down the center aisle to have their feet measured before picking out the best fit.
After the child selects his or her new shoes, the associates make sure they fit correctly and then they’re lined up again to for an impromptu shoe show.
Each of the two shoe stores will serve approximately 400 children, Wallace said.
While the numbers are staggering and the need is ever present, Stevenson cited the positives. Children are helped, people have a chance to give back and, further, teachers use the exercise as an opportunity to improve their students’ writing skills.
Each child is asked to write a thank-you letter to Pairs and Spares class members.
“Thank you for my new boots,” wrote Yasmine. “I love them. My boots are very comfortable and warm. Being with my family and friend is important to me because I love them and they love me. now you are my friends, too, because your gift lets me know you care about me.”
Wrote Edgar, “Thank you so much for buying me a new pair of shoes. My old shoes were torn up. But my new ones are perfect.”
It’s an easy way for Terry Green, store leader at JC Penney in Rockingham, to get into the spirit of the season. He usually can be heard singing Christmas carols while helping fit the right child with the right set of sneakers.
Green recounted one boy’s experience several years ago. The boy spoke Spanish, and no one could understand anything other than he was visibly upset. After a while, it was learned the boy preferred a pair of light-up shoes.
“Just seeing the kids puts me in the Christmas spirit,” Green said. “I have a good time singing Christmas carols with the children.”
Donations to First Presbyterian Church are tax-deductible. The Sunday School classes handles 100 percent of any overhead and every penny of every donation goes towards purchasing children new pairs of shoes.
“Those who (donate) know exactly what their money is going for,” Stevenson said.
Donations can be mailed to the Pairs and Spares Sunday School class, to: New Shoes for Christmas, in care of First Presbyterian Church, 904 Fayetteville Road, Rockingham NC 28379.