Pioneers host children’s shoe parties in style

Shoe shopping is always fun, and even more so when it becomes a party. From Illinois to Arizona, from boots to sneakers, the Pioneers are helping provide a necessity to hundreds of school children in need of the right size, and right kind, of shoes. And, when the Pioneers team up with leading discount shoe stores to host shoe parties for disadvantaged kids, everyone leaves with not only warm feet, but full hearts.

All across Illinois, the shoes, and smiles, fit perfectly

November in Homewood

The AT&T Illinois Pioneers have partnered with Famous Footwear for the last 15 years to provide shoes for local children who can’t afford warm boots to play in the snow, or trainers to run in style.

So, on a cold morning in the town of Homewood, the Pioneers kicked of the first of several shoe shopping events. Famous Footwear opened its doors to 45 volunteers and almost 200 students from seven different schools, who were excited to start shopping!

In just a few short hours, the kids, with the help of the Pioneers and staff at Famous Footwear, were able to pick out a new pair shoes or boots that fit them perfectly. Each student also walked away with a goody bag stuffed with books, toys, and candy and a pair of socks.

Local civic leaders attended the event as well. Richard Hofeld, mayor of Homewood, and Patricia Hutson, school board member, were on hand to help. And other shoppers in the store appreciated what the Pioneers were doing so much that they recommended additional schools that could be helped next year!

December in Moline

The Pioneers received some help from Santa at another shoe party in Moline. On a brisk December morning, over 250 children (from kindergarten through eighth grade) from area schools arrived early at a Famous Footwear, ready to shop. And, hours later, they all walked away with new shoes, socks and gloves as well as a goody bag stuffed with toiletry items.

The children also shared a few special moments with Santa, also known as Steve Montgomery, while munching on cookies. Montgomery, who started an annual GoFundMe page to help support the event, said the Telecom Pioneers and an army of other local service groups help bring the shoe shopping party to life each year.

“So many people have taken the idea and run with it,’’ Montgomery said. “Start with the Telecom Pioneers, because this is something they have been doing locally since the 1970s. That’s amazing, and they are an amazing collection of caring people who give time, money and their hearts.”

With the help of staff at local schools, students with needs are selected to participate. When they arrive, they are fitted with a new pair of socks and properly sized for shoes by store staffers. Then they get to pick out shoes from several racks of shoes throughout the store. “That’s where the eyes really get big,’’ Montgomery said, describing the kids’ expressions when they get their new shoes.

December in South Elgin

It might have been another frigid day outside, but inside a South Elgin shoe store, nobody felt the chill as another shoe shopping party took place.

Pioneers and community members worked together to help more than 368 children from a nearby school district (identified as children in need) try on and select a new pair of shoes or boots. The students were also treated to goody bags filled with a hat, socks and gloves to ward off any Midwest winter cold.

More than 50 Pioneers were joined by store staff, local elected officials and first responders from the South Elgin police and fire departments to make this shoe party a huge success.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, teamwork is rewarded with smiles

Teamwork pays dividends when it comes to helping others. The Southern Arizona Telecom Pioneers Chapter (SATPC) recently partnered with the South Tucson Cyber Lions Club to host a shoe shopping party for some local students in need. The chapter was able to donate $600, and the services of 23 volunteers, to provide these children with new shoes.

In November 2018, Pioneers showed up in force at a local Payless Shoe Store to play personal shopper to 24 children from a local elementary school. The store even opened early to accommodate all the volunteers, teachers and students who attended.

“Everyone involved had so much fun shopping and, at the end of the day, each child went home with two pairs of shoes and a bag of socks!” noted Cathy Greer, a Pioneer at the event. “Working together with the Lions Club, we accomplished so much more than we could on our own.”

In addition to hosting the shoe party, the chapter also works with the Lions to help provide vision screening to children across Tucson. Just last year, over 22,000 students in 65 schools were the beneficiaries of the strong partnership between the two organizations.

Across the country, these Pioneers (and many other volunteers) were thrilled to be paid only in grateful smiles for making sure all these children found shoes that fit them just right. And, of course, who doesn’t like to shop for shoes?