Payless program gives free shoes to members of Boys & Girls Club
JANESVILLE — With little care for the falling rain, the group of boys and girls excitedly jumped from the van and made a beeline for the shoe store.
Once inside Payless ShoeSource on Milton Avenue, some raced down aisles in search of new shoes. Others waited for directions about what to look for according to their shoe sizes.
The 10 Janesville Boys & Girls Club members were among recipients of Payless ShoeSource's holiday children's shoe-giving program, Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids.
The program selected charity partners in all 50 states, Canada, Puerto Rico and 11 Latin American countries, to give $1.5 million worth of free shoes to children from needy families.
A group of 80 children served by the local Boys & Girls Club already has participated in six separate shoe-buying trips since December. Two more trips for an additional 20 children also are planned, said Becky Buchanan, director of program operations at the club.
On Thursday, 9-year-old Nick Velasco picked out a pair of white Champion tennis shoes accented with black stripes. He said they were going to replace the 2-year-old, black Nike hi-tops he was wearing.
While sitting at a bench as he put on his old shoes, Nick still couldn't seem to believe he would be leaving with a new pair of shoes. He said he usually only gets a new pair when his shoes have holes in them or are missing pieces.
“It feels exciting, but it was way hard to pick out certain shoes with a strict price of under $20,” he said.
“I like the way they look,” he said of his new shoes.
Nick said the gift through Payless was a big financial help to his mother, who is an unemployed single mom.
“She doesn't have the money to buy what we need 'cause she doesn't work,” he said. “She used to be a nurse.”
Nearby, Jerome Hughes, 8, was being fitted for a pair of white Air Jordan tennis shoes.
“They make my feet feel comfortable, squishy,” he said, giggling, as a club staff member went in search of the same shoe a half-size bigger.
Jerome said Thursday marked the first time he's ever been able to pick out his own shoes.
“I come with my mom some times to try on, but she always picks the shoes,” he said.
When Tiffany Meeks, club youth program specialist, asked Jerome if the bigger size fit, he didn't answer but went skipping off down the aisle.
“He's in love with those shoes,” she said.
Payless ShoeSource started the Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids program in 2008 when it gave away $1 million worth of free shoes.
Buchanan and club members are grateful for the program. The local club received 100 gift certificates for kids, who were selected on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We sent a permission slip home with parents asking if they would like their child to participate, and if so to give us their shoe size,” she said. “We are planning to use all 100 gift certificates on 100 different kids.”