More than a decade ago, AFL-CIO Community Services began passing out shoes to kids at the start of the academic year to help families with back-to-school expenses.
The agency is aiming to do that again this year with the Soles for Christ program in Andrew, Buchanan and Doniphan counties, but things may be more complicated this go around.
Families who had to use federal stimulus checks for rent or other essential things may be newcomers to the program this year, but Soles for Christ wants to welcome that added demand. However, to make that happen, the program needs help.
At this time, there are only 26 pairs of shoes donated for kindergartners through seniors in high school, according to Nichi Seckinger, marketing and fundraising director at AFL-CIO.
“The people that have lost their job or that were furloughed from their job without pay ... it definitely will help them out a lot,” Seckinger said. “Our biggest fear is that we may have that same issue as far as the donations coming in for the program.”
Souls for Christ hopes to have 1,500 shoes on hand before school starts, which is more than are typically given out. Last year the program distributed 1,200 pairs of shoes.
Sometimes the people who give to the program have had help from Souls for Christ in the past.
“We have kids come in in the shoes that they got last year and want to donate them back so that someone else can use their shoes,” Seckinger said with a smile. “Unfortunately those are not ever usable.”
Due to the concerns brought on by the pandemic, AFL-CIO volunteers also plan to change the way they hand out shoes. They want to deliver them to schools on a box truck. To do that, help is needed from the community to locate a truck to use for a few days.
Those interested in donating shoes to Soles for Christ can drop them off at the AFL-CIO office at 1203 S. Sixth St. Staff ask that those leaving donations call the Help Me Now hotline at 816-364-1131. Anyone who can help with a truck for delivering the shoes also is asked to call the hotline.