More than 1,200 local children had new shoes when school started, thanks to a four-year-old program that continues to expand.
“I think we have done incredible work this year,” said Betty Snapp, coordinator of the Tennies for Kids program for the Community Services League.
The goal each year has been to get donations – shoes or cash, at $10 a pair – equal to 1,000 pairs of shoes. This year’s donations exceed 1,700.
“It was by far a record,” said Doug Cowan, the Community Services League’s president and CEO.
“So what that gives us is the opportunity to do is reach more kids, more families,” he added.
The program began with a handful of volunteers at Stone Church in Independence, and it’s grown year by year. The group starts in the spring, with dine-and-donate events at local restaurants.
“Those were quite successful” this year, Snapp said.
And more people have gotten on board.
“We had more churches participate,” Snapp said. “We had more individuals participate.”
That leads up to the Community Services League’s back-to-school events, including giving out shoes at each of its 10 locations across Eastern Jackson County. At the biggest event, at the main office on Noland Road just off the Square, 16 volunteers helped out. Snapp said some parents expressed a great deal of gratitude.
“I know they (the children) are going to feel better about starting school, and they’re going to do better,” Cowan said.
In all, the group distributed 1,200 pairs of shoes. The rest will be given out through schools and at Christmastime. The Tennies for Kids program will start from zero in 2015.
Some of those same volunteers are involved in another effort to help kids, and there’s an event Saturday. It’s called the Coalition of Women Helping Children. There is no membership, and there are no meetings. A woman who cares about children is considered a member, Snapp and Cowan said.
The event, a fundraiser, is a “Chic and ‘Cent’sible” fashion show at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Holiday Inn Kansas City, 9103 E. 39th St. There’s a brunch, and those in the fashion show are supposed to dress up cleverly: Make it look good, but don’t spend more than $100. The money raised goes to the Community Services League for children’s programs.
The potential reach of programs such as Tennies for Kids is substantial. CSL’s eligibilty guidelines are close to those for free and reduced-price lunches at school, and Cowan said means upwards of 20,000 children could qualify across Eastern Jackson County. The 98-year-old agency has put a large emphasis on its Work Express program to help people move into better jobs.
“We’re seeing families needing a depth of services,” Cowan said.