DANVILLE — A small pair of Spiderman shoes was perched on the front counter at the Vermilion County Regional Office of Education, all set to be worn and enjoyed by a child in the community.
Tricia Keith, however, knows there are many more children and teens in the county who need a new pair of shoes, either to replace their worn-out shoes or to wear ones that fit properly and are the correct size.
She has seen the need firsthand as the Regional Office of Education’s program coordinator and homeless coordinator.
“Shoes are so important and not to have them duct taped, holding them together,” Keith said.
“To get brand new shoes, they get so excited to have their own pair of shoes,” she said.
Keith decided to launch her first shoe drive two years ago and named it, From Your Heart to Their Soles. The shoe donations benefit children and teens in need across Vermilion County.
“We collected hundreds of shoes last year,” she said.
This year’s third annual shoe drive is not without its challenges due to COVID-19. In the past, local businesses would conduct their own mini shoe drive inside their workplace and then donate what they collected to Keith’s shoe drive.
“I’m worried about not getting enough donations,” Keith said. “Businesses who have partnered with us in the past now don’t have anyone in their office because everyone is working remotely.”
The shoe drive kicked off Sept. 1 and runs through Oct. 1, but Keith said she will accept donations of new shoes and money anytime of the year. The monetary donations are used to purchase new shoes.
“The money helps us fill in the sizes we don’t have or have run out of,” she said.
New athletic shoes in all sizes from preschool children to adult — male and female — are being collected at the Vermilion County Regional Office of Education, 200 College St., in Danville.
“This year, because of COVID-19, the Regional Office of Education is the only drop-off site,” she said.
“We accept any size of shoe,” Keith added. “A lot of times people forget about the teens, but many of them wear an adult size.”
Despite these unusual and unprecedented times, Keith said she still is seeing support for her shoe drive.
“People are participating, just in a different way,” she said. “Sunrise Rotary is making a nice donation, and so is the Batestown United Methodist Church.
“My retired teacher friends have sent in checks, and REG did a small shoe drive this summer,” she added. “It takes the whole community.”
The shoes will be given to any Vermilion County student in need with no income requirement that must be met. Keith said she knows COVID-19 has impacted the income of many local families this year.
During a typical school year, teachers, social workers and principals refer children and teens who they believe could benefit from a pair of new shoes.
“Schools contact me directly if they know of a student in need,” she said. “But it’s an extra challenge this year because we aren’t seeing the kids (in person) who might be in need.”
The shoes also are available to children and teens in homeless shelters and across the county.
“Any extra shoes we collect are shared with the women’s shelter and the Dwelling Place,” Keith said.
The need for shoes for all age ranges of children and teens in the county is great.
“Last school year there were 421 homeless students in Vermilion County,” Keith said, adding that homeless means the children lacked a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.
Anyone interested in donating shoes or money after the Oct. 1 shoe drive deadline may continue to do so at the Vermilion County Regional Office of Education, 200 College St., Danville.