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Giving Warmth In The Bronx

Mr. Lopez is a contractor in the Bronx—a scrappy, but struggling, community in New York City. 

About 1.4 million people call the Bronx their home, and 26% of them live below poverty level. That’s more than 372,000 people living on less than $26,500 a year for a family of four. It’s the poorest of the five New York boroughs. 

Now let’s zero in on P.S. 55 Benjamin Franklin, a Bronx elementary school located in the poorest congressional district in the country. More than 90% of students in P.S. 55 are eligible for free or reduced lunch—nearly twice the New York state average.

Among those students is Mr. Lopez’s 10-year-old daughter, Anna.

We met them both on Thanksgiving weekend. That Saturday, in partnership with Macy’s, Foot Locker, school principal Luis Torres, and generous donors like you, we distributed 500 winter coats, 500 pairs of shoes, and 1000 pairs of socks to families in need.

For Principal Torres, this distribution was personal. And not only because he works at the school.

This is my community. I grew up not too far away from the school. This is an opportunity for me to do something for the people I view as family. If we talk about making the world a better place for all children, this is where the work needs to be taking place.” – Principal Torres

Although it’s fair to say it’s always “a time of need” in the Bronx, the last couple of years have been particularly tough for Anna and her father.  

As a contractor, Mr. Lopez has experienced a significant decline in work opportunities due to the coronavirus pandemic.

So the Soles4Souls distribution at P.S. 55 couldn’t have come at a better time. In fact, as Anna was being sized for her new shoes and coat, she kept thanking volunteers, saying how helpful this would be for her and her family.

She’s only 10 years old, remember. At 10 years old, how many of us would’ve been thinking about what would be helpful to our family? Not many, I imagine.

But we see that quite a lot when we spend time in communities like the Bronx. Kids think a bit differently. They have a more “in this together” spirit. 

That’s good in some ways, but in others it seems burdensome, doesn’t it? These kids have such big worries and concerns. Grown-up worries and concerns.

“In the Black and Latino community, how we look on the outside, our appearance, means so much. We don’t want people to necessarily know our socioeconomic status just by looking at us. 

“A new pair of shoes can create confidence for a student, prevent them from being bullied. 

These are things that we don’t have to think about, but kids deal with on a daily basis. So this new coat and new shoes means they don’t have to wear the same dirty one, or the hand-me-down— they get to have their own.” – Chantel Jackson, New York State Representative, Assembly District 79

At Soles4Souls, we’ve seen that transformation play out time and time again. It’s incredible how something as simple as a new pair of shoes… a new winter coat… a good pair of socks… gives kids permission to just be kids.

“Families here are in great need, so it’s important for us to come together and share resources. Maybe a mom and dad can’t afford to buy that coat or buy that pair of shoes. This puts a smile on a child’s face and a sigh of relief for these parents.” – Chantel Jackson, New York State Representative, Assembly District 79

Your support does so much good. It is, in Mr. Lopezs own words, “a blessing for our family.”