WEST JEFFERSON — With another school year just around the corner, many parents and their children are heading out on back-to-school shopping sprees. For some Ashe County students, they are just hoping to have some new shoes that fit and will last them through the school year.
Shoes For Kids, a local nonprofit organization started by Martin Little and Melody Rector in 2013, has made it their mission to be able to provide high-quality, name-brand shoes for less privileged children in Ashe County.
“Every penny of money donated goes to buy shoes for kids. We don’t use any money for anything other than buying shoes for kids. The board members pitch in and take care of all administrative costs so that every penny goes to buying shoes,” Rector said. “We have shoe closets at all seven Ashe County schools, every childcare facility and at DSS. Every needy child from birth through 12th grade has access to properly fitting shoes.”
In the Ashe County school system alone, Little said that roughly 70% of students qualify for the program. Those that qualify are the students that also qualify for free or reduced cost lunches.
“It was important to get involved in the school system because we knew that the teachers and the counselors would be the ones that could identify the kids in need, we would have no idea and we don’t see them on a daily basis like they do,” Little said.
The shoes that the organization purchases are all high-quality and popular brands such as Nike, Adidas, Vans and Converse among others.
“We don’t buy any shoes that I wouldn’t buy for my children. We want the kids to have shoes that are just like everybody else, and they are so proud to get a pair of new shoes,” Rector said.
With the cost of a new pair of shoes continuing to go up, Shoes For Kids has had to increase their budget each year to be able to meet the needs of Ashe County children. Thanks to the continued generosity of many people within the county and the funds raised from the annual Stomp & Brew Festival in downtown West Jefferson, needy children are able to get those new shoes each year.
“Every bit of the Stomp & Brew Festival profits goes to Shoes for Kids. That is wonderful for us,” Rector said.
Even with the festival and other donations, it is an ongoing challenge throughout the year to be able to provide these shoes to children. Even as some students may graduate high school, there are new students enrolling in school and the need continues to grow and change each year. Some students will outgrow shoes they got the previous year and others may need a pair of shoes in the summer and then need a pair for the winter months as cold weather arrives.
“We cannot express enough how generous our county is. It wouldn’t have been successful to this point without the overall effort of this county,” Little said. “We couldn’t have done all of this ourselves or funded it, it has been a county-wide effort.”
Stomp & Brew is scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 and will take place in downtown West Jefferson. Tickets are still on sale for the event and can be purchased online at stompandbrew.com.
For more information on Shoes For Kids, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SHOESFORKIDS.ASHENC.