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Rotary Club gives free shoes to every third grader in RSS

Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Getting a fresh pair of kicks is a good feeling, but some kids never get to experience the feeling of lacing up a pair of shoes fresh off the rack.

The Rotary Club of Salisbury has been trying to bridge that gap for the past few years by working with Shoe Carnival and Rowan-Salisbury Schools to provide a new pair of shoes for third-graders.

Local Rotarian and businessman Chris Bradshaw said the program started out working with only a few schools, identifying some kids most in need to get new shoes. It has expanded to provide shoes for everyone at the most economically disadvantaged elementary schools in the district. This year, the program has stepped up to get every third-grader in the district a pair of new shoes.

Bradshaw said the club is also providing socks for students who need them.

The expansion has been made possible by philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback, who Bradshaw said agreed to be named.

Hurley Elementary School has benefitted from the program for a few years, and principal Jennifer Brown said it students who may not have them otherwise a new pair of shoes.

“It is such a huge blessing,” Brown said.

Brown said a grandparent contacted her recently and raved about the generosity of the program and what it means to students.

Normally, the schools would take third graders to the store on a field trip to pick out their pair, but field trips have been suspended because of COVID-19. RSS Director of Student Services Carol Houpe said the district adapted by giving each student a voucher, and the students can travel to the store with their family.

Houpe said the district was excited when the Rotary Club said the program would be available for every school this year.

Houpe said she went to the store this week to drop off an updated list of students and ran into a family who was shopping for their own pair. The parent realized Houpe was with RSS and told her how the program impacted the family.

“She just stressed to me how much this meant to the family and just the smile on the student’s face,” Houpe said.

Bradshaw said the club wants to keep the program going at the same level it is now, which will take some more effort on the part of the club. But it will be worth it for the kids, he said.

“It brings out their personalities,” Bradshaw said. “You almost have to be there to see their faces.”

Bradshaw said some people take for granted having appropriate shoes, but that is not the reality for some families.

“A lot of kids don’t have that advantage, to say the least,” Bradshaw said.

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