Excitement Afoot on Shoe-Store Trip

Excitement Afoot on Shoe-Store Trip

With a free pair, some kids walk on air after LR shelter’s shopping trip.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

By Chelsea Boozer

Photographer Melissa Gerrits


Barely 4 feet tall, Lillian Vandett immediately rushed over to gawk at the high heels.

“I’m getting these!” the 8-year-old shrieked, holding up a pair of hot pink shoes with half-inch cork wedges.

Her second choice was a pair of sparkly pink tennis shoes that matched the sparkles on her headband, the jewels on her jacket and the pink glitter on her shirt. Lillian and 54 other children, ages 6 to 17 who are enrolled in the Little Rock Our House homeless shelter’s out-of school program, were treated to a shopping trip at Payless Shoe Source on Thursday.

Our House received a $500 Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids grant from the company and paired that with nearly $900 in gift cards donated by a local community shoe drive“New Kicks for Kids” to pay for a pair of shoes for each child in the program. Others enrolled in the shelter’s Child Development Center, ages 6 weeks to 5 years and who were too young to go on the field trip, had a pair of shoes picked out for them by Our House staff members.

A group of 6- to 11-yearolds swarmed the Payless store in west Little Rock on Markham at 10 a.m., pacing back and forth between aisles trying to pick out the perfect pairs of shoes. The older children and teens followed in a separate group later that day.

Dillon Davis, 11, stood on a shoe bench to be able to view the boy’s size 5½ shoes on the top rack. His shaggy blond hair draped over his forehead, his gray jacket fell off one arm and he just stared. More than 20 minutes passed and he hadn’t yet picked a shoe to try on.

“I just want something I’ve never had before,” he said, still staring at the small selection of boys’ shoes in that size.

After being persuaded to try a pair on, he found them to be too loose. A manager sized his foot and realized Dillon needed a size 5. He had tennis shoes, he said, so he wasn’t interested in those. A pair of brown leather boat shoes caught his eye and they fit just right.

“But I don’t know if I have anything to wear that matches these,” he mumbled with his head down, his voice barely above a whisper.

Dillon just moved into the shelter about a week ago with his mother and teenage sister.

After pondering between his first pick and a pair of American Eagle dress tennis shoes, Dillon chose the boat shoes. He swung the plastic bag with his selection inside as he walked to the van that would take him and the other children to a picnic before they went to see The Boy Who Cried Wolf at the Arkansas Arts Center.

The children are on spring break this week. While their parents are at work or searching for a job, the children have been taking field trips as part of the out-of-school program. Some of the participants live at the shelter, while others are neighborhood children who are enrolled in the child-care program.

“We have boxes of used and donated shoes given to Our House, but it’s so important for these kids to get a new pair of shoes,” said Ashley Moses, coordinator of Thursday’s field trip. “It’s important to have the self-esteem associated with feeling good in your new shoes. It’s value; its worth. It says, ‘You’re worth something new.’”

Moses has a one-year position with Our House’s children programs through VISTA – a national group that pays volunteers to serve various organizations around the country.

Our House Executive Director Georgia Mjartan said properly fitting shoes are important to a child’s health and development, but many don’t own a pair that fits.

“Providing new shoes for these youth will not only relieve some of the stress parents may face while trying to support their families, but can also supply a huge confidence boost – which is something every kid needs from time to time,” Mjartan said.

While some of the children Thursday were busy looking for shoes that light up or ones with a superhero on them, 13-year-old Malik White wasn’t focused on what pair would best fit him.

“I picked out some boots, but I’m bringing them back so I can get some shoes for my mom. It’s her birthday Monday,” the lanky boy said before walking off with a grin toward the checkout counter.

Arkansas, Pages 9 on 03/28/2014

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