Project Shoe (Stepping Up Not Handing Out)
Project Shoe is unique in that although the program provides shoes and school supplies to the children of the poor in our community, the program strives to develop, within the children, an understanding that this is a helping hand and not a handout.
Project Shoe could very well be the first attempt to impact the children’s attitudes of an exaggerated or unrealistic belief about what one deserves, being raised to believe that it is their right to have everything given to them. Unfortunately, greater entitlement has been associated with poorer academic performance that leads to the cycle of poverty that we see in the poorer segments of our community.
The program builds on improving self-esteem and changing their attitudes toward learning. The students that participate in Project Shoe range in age from 2 to 6 years old and are all eligible for free school lunches. Due to the limited income of the families, the children’s experiences and extracurricular activities are limited. The majority of the parents are not high school graduates. As a result they face challenges just to support their children. These children are already starting out with a low self-esteem resulting in a low success rate. Project Shoe provides the children with an experience of a lifetime and hopefully a chance to change their future.
The children are bused to a local Payless Shoe store where Kiwanis and store personnel help pick out shoes for the children. The selection of the children is coordinated through the Volunteers of America and the Boys & Girls Clubs, who choose the neediest children. The children also receive back packs, a snack, school supplies, books, paper, pencils, socks, etc. To entertain the children during the process there is a D.J., dance contests, and a clown. The whole program is an upbeat and motivating experience.
The project objective is to have the children feel much better about themselves by having a decent pair of shoes to attend school. It is a basic need and we provide it, but we also ask the children to do a chore for their family after receiving the shoes so that they realize the value of the shoes and that this is not a hand out or an entitlement. Finally we use the time to bond to the children and providing role models. The program is held once a year just before school starts.