Local teachers and school personnel are getting some extra help purchasing shoes for needy students this year.
The Compassion Highway Project is trying to collect 1,000 pairs of children's shoes for the holidays.
Jackson Elementary School parent outreach coordinator Danielle Jensen said teachers in her school and others have been helping to provide shoes for students for years, but the need is beyond what teachers can afford on their own.
“We have always had teachers and staff members try to help out to purchase shoes for students, and we’ve had some donations from outside sources. The need has always been there, so we’ve always known and tried to help. It’s more serious in the winter months and when it’s raining,” Jensen said.
“All the teachers and staff have access to duct tape — it’s just a remedy of ours — so we tape them up when they have blow-outs or come to school without appropriate footwear.
“A couple days ago, a little girl had a pair of those soft boots on with rubber on the bottom, and the whole bottom on one of the shoes was off. It was just the cloth in the bottom of the inside of the shoe,” she said.
“She went out to morning recess and came in and told us her foot was all wet. We just want to be able to give them all something so that they’re able to go out and play.”
Melissa Mayne, director of Compassion Highway Project, said when she learned of teachers’ efforts to help students, she was saddened by the volume of need but touched by the concern of teachers.
“I feel really passionate about helping with this. Obviously, I’m out in the community, and I see kids all the time with torn-up shoes and with slippers on instead of shoes. When I heard that some teachers had gathered their own money together at Jackson and bought maybe 30 pairs of shoes, I felt like, ‘Well, our teachers already don’t make enough, yet they’re willing to step up,’ so I really wanted to help take this on,” Mayne said.
“Hopefully this is something we can do every year and maybe get businesses and the community to get more involved. Kids aren’t going to come to school if they’re embarrassed or they don’t have shoes to wear. How are they supposed to learn when they’re hungry and cold?”
In addition to new shoes and socks for students in need, Mayne said, gently used “backup shoes” are needed at all the schools to keep students going when new shoes aren’t available.
Jensen said she hoped local residents would help, much the way “coats for kids” efforts have become a regular part of the holiday giving season.
“There are plenty of coats for kids every year — and that’s perfect — but now they need some shoes,” she said.
Shoe and sock donations can be made this week at any Starbucks location. In addition, Little Feet Shoe Store, 24 N. Bartlett St., and Sheer Antics Salon, 1010 Court St., both in Medford, will accept shoe and sock donations through Dec. 4.
Little Feet Shoes is offering a 50 percent discount on any shoe or sock items purchased for donation, and a 30 percent discount on additional purchases for anyone who donates to the shoe drive.
Donations toward shoe purchases can be made online at www.compassionhighwayproject.org/
— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org