Bare Feet Program

Program Overview

For a child growing up in poverty in Appalachia, the pair of shoes they are wearing today likely came from an older sibling, or perhaps even a parent. And it’s not unlikely that shoes are too large, or too small, are worn out well beyond their useful life and perhaps have more holes than soles.

At Americans Helping Americans® we have heard the stories of students standing at bus stops in the middle of winter wearing soaking wet sneakers after trudging through a foot of snow to get there. We have even heard from our partners of students showing up at school on a frigid winter’s day wearing nothing on their feet than a pair of flipflops.

That’s why we began our Barefeet program in which a child and their parent or guardian is taken to a shoe store by one of our partner organizations where the child is able to pick out EXACTLY what pair of shoes they want.

We have seen firsthand the expression of joy on their faces when they are told they can pick any pair they want of the dozens displayed on the wall. The experience is perhaps only second or third compared to Christmas or their birthdays.

For some, (mostly boys) they know exactly which pair they want within seconds of setting their eyes on them. Even prodding from their moms, dads or the shoe salesman questioning “Are you sure those are the ones you want? You haven’t even looked at all of them” does nothing to dissuade them.

It is, as they say, love at first sight.

For others, (mostly girls) having all those choices poses quite a dilemma. This pair or that pair, or that pair? Pink or purple? Decisions, decisions.

For many of these elementary school-age children, it’s the very first pair of shoes they have ever owned.

But at Americans Helping Americans®, we also realize it’s not feasible to take thousands of children to shoe stores to pick out their own pair.

However, through our in-kind distribution program, we are able to buy thousands of good quality pairs of sneakers in all sizes and colors in bulk at a reasonable price – much less than the same pair would cost their parents even at a big box discount store.

Each year, usually at the start of the new school year, our partners distribute these pairs of shoes to students in their communities ensuring that they can walk into the first day of class proudly, with no fear of shame or embarrassment.

And thanks to our supporters, we are usually able to provide our partners with a couple of dozen extra pairs to have on hand throughout the school year for those days which eventually come when a child walks into to school wearing flipflops with their feet literally chilled to the bone.