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St. Paul’s Shoe Bank to celebrate 25 years of helping children

St. Paul’s Shoe Bank started in 1991 and now gives children about 400 pairs of shoes every year.
St. Paul’s Shoe Bank started in 1991 and now gives children about 400 pairs of shoes every year. Photo provided

This fall, St. Paul’s Shoe Bank celebrates its 25th year of operation. The Shoe Bank was conceived in 1991 when a need was seen at the Park Forest Day Nursery. Several children did not have appropriate shoes, so some members of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church decided to do something about it and the Shoe Bank was born.

The primary goal of the Shoe Bank is to ensure that every child in need of shoes in and around the Centre Region has a pair of new sneakers. Nearly every Saturday morning since its inception, you can find volunteers fitting and dispensing new sneakers to children who qualify. The Shoe Bank, located in Room 203 of the Wesley Foundation on Locust Lane in State College, operates from 9 a.m. to noon on most Saturdays.

Children from birth to 18 years of age with a medical assistance card can qualify for new sneakers every six months (every three months for children younger than 3). Referrals to the Shoe Bank can come from local agencies such as Centre Volunteers in Medicine, Centre County Women’s Resource Center, Community Help Centre, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, 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 serve basis. Each client is also given a new pair of socks and encouraged to take home a book or two from our library of donated books.

While the main goal of the Shoe Bank is focused on children, three 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 can include anything from sandals to sneakers, dress shoes to work boots, depending on donations.

Volunteers are the backbone of this mission and work year-round to buy shoes, check inventory, keep records and help on Saturdays to make sure each child receives a pair of shoes. Funds to support this mission come primarily from St. Paul’s and monetary donations to the Shoe Bank. Generally, about 400 pairs of shoes are given out every year.

St. Paul’s 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. Paul’s Shoe Bank had clients coming from long distances to get shoes.

Anyone who would like additional information, would like to donate or consider volunteer opportunities should call the church office at 237-2163 or email shoebank@stpaulsc.org.

Jan Becker is the St. Paul’s Shoe Bank Coordinator.

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