Learning how to tie your shoelaces is a childhood rite of passage familiar to most of us, but what if you did not have a pair of shoes? Ensuring all children around the Centre Region in need of shoes have a pair of sneakers is the goal of the St. Pauls Shoe Bank.
The Shoe Bank has been in operation since 1991, when members of St. Pauls United Methodist Church saw a need at the Park Forest Day Nursery. Since then, nearly every Saturday morning you can find volunteers fitting and dispensing new sneakers to children who qualify. The Shoe Bank, 107 Wesley Foundation on Locust Lane in State College, operates from 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays.
Children from birth to 18 years of age with an ACCESS card can qualify for new sneakers every six months (every three months for children younger than 3). In addition, referrals to the Shoe Bank also come from local agencies such as Centre Volunteers in Medicine, the Centre County Womens Resource Center, Community Help Centre, the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Interfaith Human Services, to name a few. Where there is a need, the Shoe Bank strives to fill it.
During the winter months, the Shoe Bank also has a supply of used and new snow boots that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Each client is also given a new pair of socks and encouraged to take home a book or two from our library. While the primary goal of the Shoe Bank is focused on children, two large wire shelves outside of the Shoe Bank are filled with a variety of used shoes that may be taken by anyone who needs them. These include sandals, sneakers, dress shoes and work boots, depending on donations.
Volunteers are the backbone of this mission and work year-round to buy shoes, check inventory, keep records, help on Saturdays to fit and make sure each child receives a pair of shoes. Funds to support this mission come primarily from St. Pauls and monetary donations to the Shoe Bank. Generally, between 400 and 500 pairs of shoes are given out every year.
St. Pauls Shoe Bank has been instrumental in helping other Shoe Banks open in Clearfield, Lewistown, Lock Haven and, most recently, Altoona. Prior to the opening of these facilities, St. Pauls Shoe Bank had clients traveling from long distances to get shoes.
Anyone who would like additional information or would like to consider volunteer opportunities should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church office at 237-2163.
Jan Becker is the coordinator of St. Pauls Shoe Bank.