A new round of the annual Sunrise Kiwanis Shoes for Kids program kicks off June 20, collecting thousands of shoes for kids in need in Charlotte County.
Christy Smith, program founder and chairperson, said this year they are hoping to provide 4,500 of new pairs of sneakers for students — pre-K, elementary, middle and high schools — for the 2021-2022 school year.
“I have around 650 pairs, thus far, from early shopping and some gifts from community members,” Smith said. “In any year, finding a way to give is so very special.
“Yet, in the last 15 to 16 months (during the pandemic), our world — and our families — have been tested financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually; so, when you can provide a family in need with a true gift from your heart, the world smiles.”
For the 2020-2021 school year, Smith and her team collected and distributed 6,720 new pairs of shoes for area students.
The school year before that they provided slightly over 7,000 pairs of shoes.
Smith began the program 16 years ago.
Since then, she and Sunrise Kiwanis have distributed almost 87,000 new pairs of sneakers to the Charlotte County Public School System.
“Last year, the shoe project was blessed beyond measure with financial gifts and new sneakers,” Smith said. “It isn’t about a number or quantity, it’s about sharing from your treasures and giving with a loving heart.”
Smith said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been mostly seen by how the schools distribute the shoes.
“Some schools used a drive-thru approach, where youth were sized and then selected the appropriate sneakers,” she said. “Other schools used open house or library days when youth were with their parents already to handle distribution.”
Smith said other sites continued with the distribution through the front office like so many years before the pandemic.
“Needless to say, the school personnel have been incredible to continue giving of their time and energy to place the shoes on the feet of those needing them the most,” she said. “We met our goal of 4,500 pairs last year and exceeded it by a few thousand to deliver shoes all year long.”
The Sunrise Kiwanis Shoes for Kids program runs from June 20 through July 25.
For a list of collection sites, go to shoesforkidsproject.org or call 941-769-0864. Monetary donations can also be made.