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This year marks the fourth time that a local organization will provide new shoes to hundreds of Springfield elementary students in participating Title I schools. Next week, OneSolePurpose will also give away its 10,000th pair of Converse Chuck Taylor shoes. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann has the story.
What first began as a wishful idea has now become an anticipated yearly event. Gayla Wells is founder of OneSolePurpose, which she and her husband began in 2010. This Springfield not-for-profit organization was started to fulfill the mission of providing shoes for children in need.
“He and I both volunteered at Weller, and one of the things that just kept coming up over and over again was the fact that a lot of the children come to school needing shoes. Some of the kids came to school with the shoes duck taped together and that kind of thing. My husband and I were talking one night and we were like, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we could buy shoes for all of the kids at school,’” Wells says.
Wells says that first summer she began working on the project, most shoe stores laughed at her idea. However, she didn’t give up. Wells continued searching until she found the right shoe store partner and the perfect shoe for the mission.
“We chose the Converse Chucks for a couple of reasons. One is they are a timeless shoe, and they are a name brand shoe. And that was very important to me. I want to give something to the kids that they are excited and proud to wear. I don’t want to give them hand-me-downs, I want to get them something nice,” says Wells.
Wells adds that she has stayed with “Chucks” because the style is consistent for children and adults, yet it has versatility. She says this is really important when working with such a wide range of sizes. Wells adds that she feels it is important for no child to feel singled out or excluded, which is why every child, regardless of income level, gets a pair of shoes in the participating schools.
Marilyn Monroe is the principal for Weller Elementary School, which was the first school to participate in the program 4 years ago. She says Weller has nearly a 90 percent free and reduced lunch program, indicating great need for the students.
“Anything we can help with the whole-child I think is just great. They don’t just come to school with academic needs; they have all kinds of needs. We want to be able to help them as much as possible. And so to be one of the schools that this is happening, it’s amazing. Monday, I can’t wait for Monday, just to see the smiles on their faces,” Monroe says.
OneSolePurpose is run entirely by volunteers, which Wells says is to keep overhead cost low. She adds that it takes many volunteers to help size the children’s feet and place shoe orders at the beginning of the school year, and also when the shoes are delivered.
“Per school it requires almost 20 volunteers, and you’re looking at seven schools. So, you’re looking at quite a few volunteers to actually put the shoes on the kid’s feet. We do take off their old shoes and socks, and put on a new pair of socks with their new shoes. It’s just a way for us to serve the kids and spend one-on-one time with the kids, so that they are aware there are people in the community who care about them,” says Wells.
In addition to Weller Elementary School; Freemont, Westport, York, Williams, Bissett and Bowerman elementary students will also be receiving shoes next week. You can find links to more information below.
For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.
Click here for schedule of participating schools
Click here to learn more about OneSolePurpose