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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Shoe project benefits Sikeston youth

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Sikeston Optimist club member Murray Sullivan looks for a pair of shoes for volunteers David Morgan and Nannette Morris.
SIKESTON -- "Does it feel OK?" a Shoe Project volunteer asked after putting a new pair of shoes on a Sikeston Public Schools student.

"Yep," the little boy nodded and then hopped onto a carpeted square platform dubbed the "shoe mountain" for one final fitting.

"Looks OK," said the volunteer after feeling around on the boy's foot, making sure he had enough room in the shoe. And just like that, the boy grabbed his sack of old shoes and skipped out of the room with a smile.

Every year around Christmas time the Sikeston Optimist Club, Shady Acres Church of Christ, Semo Christian Academy, Sikeston Public Schools and other volunteers come together to ensure students preschool through second grade in the Sikeston Public Schools system, Head Start and Matthews School in Matthews are entering winter with a sturdy, comfortable pair of shoes.

"It's hard to believe, but for a few of these children, this is the only Christmas present they'll get this year," said Sikeston Optimist Club President David Morris.

Volunteer Nannette Morris, who is also known as the "Shoe Lady," said the project is done around this time not only for Christmas but because the students need to have solid shoes and socks to get through the winter.

School nurses and teachers refer the students to the project while the Sikeston Optimist Club donates the shoes, and socks are provided by the Semo Christian Academy students and other donations. Shady Acres Church of Christ provides the facility for shoe fittings.

Over 200 pairs of shoes are expected to be placed on the feet of area youngsters this year, noted Nannette Morris. Normally the project provides 350 pairs of shoes to children, but this year, for whatever reason, that isn't the case, she said.

In order to meet the needs of the 200 children, 1,000 pairs of shoes are needed to match the children with a perfect fit, David Morris said.

"In the summer and fall we check our inventory and see which sizes we need more of," David Morris said. "We get the shopping list ready."

The Sikeston Optimist Club began purchasing shoes for needy children in 1968.

"When we started out, we got our shoes direct from a shoe manufacturing company in the area like the one in Advance. Now there aren't any shoe companies around here so we get them from a company in Nashville, Tenn.," David Morris explained.

In 1973, more than 100 pairs of shoes were fitted and in 1986, the number climbed to 400 pairs of shoes fitted. The inventory has grown so much over the years, Shady Acres Church of Christ even built "shoe rooms" strictly for the Shoe Project.

"We have so many kids that need shoes," noted Kindergarten Center School nurse Marian Malone.

School nurses and teachers are responsible for monitoring the students throughout the first semester and later identifying the kids who need help getting shoes, Malone explained.

With permission from parents, students are transported by their school's buses to get fitted for their shoes. Nannette Morris said the volunteers work with one school a day. They began the project last Monday and expect to finish next Tuesday.

Carrie Yanson isn't a member of the Optimist Club, but she has volunteered for the Shoe Project for the past six or seven years.

"When you see students with holes in the toes of their shoes, you realize there's a lot of need for the shoe project," Yanson noted. "I'm proud Sikeston has the Optimist Club because this project is a big service to the town."

Traditionally done just before Christmas vacation, the Shoe Project provides shoes for kids throughout the year, too -- It's an ongoing project, David Morris said.

"Most parents are really grateful. I mean these are nice shoes," said the Kindergarten Center nurse, adding the shoes are valued at about $40 a pair.

And the kids are thrilled to have new shoes.

"As a whole, response about the project is very positive," said David Morris. "Most of the students are very proud of their new shoes. It's a humbling experience."

Young volunteers have also enjoyed the experience in the past.

Up until the last two years, members of ASTRA, a high school form of the Altrusa Club, were able to take an hour of class time and volunteer with the Shoe Project, Yanson recalled.

"It was a very beneficial thing for the girls to do," said Yanson, an Altrusa member. "It opened up quite a few eyes. They can hear about the need, but when they actually see it, they really see the need in the community firsthand."

To volunteer with the Shoe Project, contact David Morris at 471-1832 or 471-1395.