Southwest puts best foot forward with shoe drive
Holt: ‘If they need them, we will include them’
The Southwest school district is teaming up for the second year with the community and businesses to raise funds and supplies to offer Fitting Our Future to students.
Fitting Our Future is a program that aims to give a new pair of socks and shoes to every student in preschool through fourth grades at Southwest.
Michelle Holt, one of the coordinators of the program, said it started last year by her and Rena Miles, who both have children in the Southwest school district.
“Last year, we were working with Walmart, and we had done a couple events with our committees within Walmart around the community of Rogers,” she said. “They were working on bringing shoes into schools.”
Holt said she and Miles got to thinking that Southwest needs a program like that.
“Last year, Southwest was at 70 percent poverty throughout the school district,” she said. “We wanted to do something for our school and the students in our community really need new shoes.”
Holt said they decided to reach out to the community and local businesses last year and were able to start the event.
“We are excited to be able to continue this in 2019,” she said. “Last year, we were able to help about 300 students all get a new pair of shoes and socks.
“We actually had so many left over that we left the rest with the school nurse, and she was able to hand them out to students as they were needed throughout the rest of the year.”
Holt said the program does aim toward preschool to fourth-grade students.
“We actually bring each student in and talk to them as we are changing their shoes,” she said. “So, it isn’t just giving them the shoes but having a one-on-one interaction with them.
“That is one reason we kept it to fourth grade and younger. It can be a little more embarrassing for the older students to go through that process.”
Holt said with the older students this year, there is a teacher, Jamie Cole, who teaches middle school and is helping with the school side of things.
“We asked her to reach out to the middle school principal and see if there are students that need shoes,” she said. “If they need them, we will include them.”
Holt said they won’t be brought in like the younger students, but they will have a new pair of shoes and socks with the nurse or the counselor.
“Last year, there was a student in fourth grade who really needed a pair of shoes — I mean, his toes were coming out of holes,” she said. “They contacted us to ask if he could get his early, and so we gave his pair early, then he got another pair on distribution day.”
Holt said students like that may be older now, in middle school, and may still have that need.
“That is why we have decided to include the middle school this year, but just do it a little differently,” she said.
Holt said the excitement from the children last year was the most amazing thing.
“Some were in tears because they were so excited, and for some, it was their first new pair of shoes ever,” she said. “The principal said last year, she couldn’t even just go into a classroom because the students were so excited. They were showing her how fast they could run and how high they could jump in their new shoes.”
Holt said it was a true blessing for the children but also for the volunteers that helped with the event.
“Last year, Wiggins Incorporated matched each donation dollar for dollar, and they are doing it again this year,” she said. “It is a company out of Rogers, and the owner was so touched by the event last year that he was the one who kept asking if we would do it again this year.”
Holt said they are looking for shoes donations and monetary donations as well.
“People can donate new shoes and socks to Shear Image on Highway 37 in Washburn,” she said. “And, people can donate money through our Facebook fundraiser or at People’s Community Bank. Donations can be made to SW Fitting Our Future account.”
Holt said donations will be accepted until Nov. 1 and distribution day is on Nov. 8.
To be more involved or to volunteer, people may call Southwest schools and get in touch with Cole, who can start taking sign-ups.