North Carolina Kiwanis Program Offers Shoes to Needy Kids

A program run by a local Kiwanis Club in western North Carolina that has provided shoes for needy school children for the past 50 years. Jessica Jones of North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC reports.

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For low-income families, coming up with all of the things their kids need for school is a challenge. And for 50 years a Kiwanis Club in western North Carolina has made sure that children have at least one item taken care of, their shoes. From North Carolina Public Radio WUNC, Jessica Jones reports.

JESSICA JONES reporting:

Eleven-year-old Janey Bradley(ph) needs a new pair of shoes. Her leather sneakers are splitting at the seams, and their treads are worn smooth. They're also too small because she's growing like a weed. So today Janey's in a sporting goods store trying on a new pair.

Ms. LOUISE BRADLEY (Janey's Mother): Got room to grow?

Mr. REX BANADYGA (Store Owner): That big enough for you?

JANEY BRADLEY: Right there.

Mr. BANADYGA: Oh, there's plenty...

JONES: The owner of the store, Rex Banadyga, and Janey's mother, Louise, both watch as she takes a few steps.

BRADLEY: They feel good. They're not as bad to walk in.

JONES: Every month during the school year almost a dozen needy children, like Janey, come into Sherman's Sporting Goods to receive a new pair of shoes. The local Kiwanis Club pays for them. Since 1955, the club has bought more than 3,000 pairs for kids. Today Janey is receiving the 3,153rd. John Greer(ph) is the head of the club's shoe program.

Mr. JOHN GREER (Kiwanis Club): They may drop out if they're too embarrassed or too uncomfortable to come to school with bad shoes, so this is one way to keep them in school and finish.

JONES: Fifty years ago the principal of a local school asked the club to buy a new pair of shoes for a student whose sneakers were falling apart. Then other principals started asking, too. Club member Morris Kaplan, who's 93 now, was put in charge of making sure every child who needed new shoes received them.

Mr. MORRIS KAPLAN (Kiwanis Club Member): When the expenditures reached $300, I began to worry. I said, `Boy, that's a lot of money'--back then. But the club told me not to worry. `We don't even have a budget,' they said. `Whatever it takes, we're going to raise it,' which it did.

JONES: Since then Kiwanis has spent $62,000 buying shoes for three generations of children in Henderson County. Janey Bradley's mom, Louise Bradley, says she's thankful her daughter is able to get a new pair.

Ms. BRADLEY: It's a big help 'cause we struggle from month to month. My husband's disabled, and we went from an every-week paycheck to a once-a-month check. And the adjustment in that itself is so hard.

JONES: Some of the kids who get new shoes take them home in the box, but not Janey, who still has hers on. She's getting her old ones wrapped up in a box at the cash register. Her mom is bending down, examining the designs on her daughter's new shoes.

BRADLEY: You like it?

Ms. BRADLEY: I bet it glows in the dark.

BRADLEY: We'll have to wait till tonight to find out.

Ms. BRADLEY: I guess we will, won't we?

JONES: Janey says she's going to wear her new shoes all the time, although she promised her mother she'll do her best to keep them looking new as long as possible. For NPR News, I'm Jessica Jones.

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