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A new pair of shoes for our kids is a new beginning”

When people began setting up home offices at the start of the pandemic, productivity gurus offered all kinds of helpful work-from-home hacks.

(I promise this has to do with kids and shoes.)

One piece of advice in particular caught my attention: Dress like you’re still going into the office.

Of course, fans of yoga pants and basketball shorts rebelled. Why in the world would I do that? No one’s going to see me (or at least not the bottom half of me), so why bother with the hassle of ironing and the discomfort of dress shoes?

But the reasoning is sound.
What we wear informs our identity. And how we’re perceived by others.

We’ve all been taught not to judge a book by its cover, but the truth is we do it all the time.

We see a white lab coat, and we assume doctor or scientist. Three-piece suit and tie? Businessperson.

Coveralls with an oval name patch? Plumber or mechanic.

As adults, the way we dress signals to the world who we are in some ways. Our clothing — shirt to shoes — impacts how we feel about ourselves, too.

The same is true for kids.

Especially kids experiencing homelessness.

Just a few weeks ago, Soles4Souls participated in a back-to-school event with Liberty Family Residence, a homeless shelter in Brooklyn, NY.

The distribution was part of 4EveryKid, our initiative designed to get new athletic shoes to the 1.5 million children experiencing homelessness in the U.S.

We hung out with more than 250 kids that day—encouraging them, reminding them how amazing they are, and fitting them with brand new shoes.

One of those kids, a six-year-old named Tyrell, told us how excited he was to be going back to school. “I love getting A+s!” he said.

What Tyrell didn’t tell us was about the bullying he endured last year.
You see, his mom shared that other kids treated Tyrell terribly because he wore “ugly” shoes.

And we hear that from kids experiencing homelessness far too often.

Other students can tell they’re homeless because of the condition of their clothing and their worn-out, beat-up shoes.

So their classmates label them “the homeless kid.”And they begin to accept that label as their identity.
But receiving a new pair of shoes is a game-changer. Here’s how Sasha Njoka from WIN shelters describes it:

“A new pair of shoes for our kids is a new beginning. It’s an increased sense of confidence … they can hold their heads up high… especially in light of a pandemic where families were really hit hard by unemployment, a new pair of shoes is essentially life-changing for a child. “

“It will make their first day of school experience that much more joyful and positive.”

And new shoes don’t just help kids feel better. They help them learn better, too.

Students living in homeless shelters are roughly 64% chronically absent, according to New York City’s Every Student, Every Day data. That means they’re missing a month or more of school within one year.

Here’s Ms. Njoku again:

“When our kids don’t have access to basic needs like food or clothing or a new pair of shoes, they can’t focus on what’s important—their education.

“During a time when they are faced with so much uncertainty, when their families are trying to gain a sense of stability in their lives, something like not having a good pair of shoes can serve as a distraction or sense of frustration.”

But having good shoes that fit properly makes a big difference in school attendance.

At our back-to-school distribution in Brooklyn, every single student we spoke with said they were more excited to attend and participate in school with their new shoes.

And our school partners around the country tell us more than half of their students have better attendance after receiving their new shoes.

When you donate, you give a fresh start to a child experiencing homelessness.

You help them see they’re not “the homeless kid.”

You help them imagine they could be the ones wearing
the white lab coat… or the three-piece suit… or the coveralls with their name on the oval patch.

Every child deserves the joy and confidence that comes with a new pair of shoes.

Will you help them experience it? With gratitude,

Buddy Teaster
CEO & President, Soles4Souls