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CSB staff with shoes donated earlier this year. Photo provided by Teresa Beegle.

| 2 min read | by Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com |

Shoes for Kids, an event sponsored by Women Making Connections (WMC), has partnered with Chelsea State Bank to bring new shoes to middle school-aged children in the local community.

One day, Tammy Bridges, founder of WMC, was reading an article about an office worker at a school in California. A little boy would come to her office saying his feet hurt. Eventually, she figured out his shoes were too small which led to her starting a program in the school to get new shoes to kids who needed them.

Since 1997, Bridges estimates that approximately 10,000 pairs of new shoes have been donated to Kids. For our wedding we asked guests to bring shoes in lieu of gifts for us, the guests were so happy to bring shoes and had fun picking out kid shoes again.

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In the past Bridges has partnered with various entities depending on where she was living and working at the time. Those have included a hospital in Flint, Flint District Schools, Ann Arbor  Schools, and a Credit Union in Ann Arbor. As a member of the Southgate Rotary, we started the program there and it continues today.

At the schools, teachers would put the size and name of a child in need of shoes on a 3×5 card and post them in the hallways before parent-teacher conferences. Parents would then pick them and go buy a couple of pairs of shoes.

“It became a social studies activity for the teachers,” said Bridges. “Teaching kids about the community they live in, that others live in, and how they can help one another. It was a great lesson for the kids that gave and also for those that received.

Chelsea State Bank employees purchased new shoes for kids. With help from Faith in Action, who has a backpack program at the end of summer, 46 kids got new shoes.

“We want to continue making sure kids have shoes that fit. As the seasons change boots will be very important. If you adopt a family at Christmas think about the feet. Gloves, hats, and coats are important but don’t overlook the ensemble.

“When your shoes don’t fit it’s hard to walk, your feet hurt, you don’t want to participate in gym class, or go outside for recess,” said Bridges. Most schools don’t let kids go outside in the winter without boots. Having the proper clothing and shoes is good for a child’s self-esteem and grades.”

“I’m hoping to continue the program because the shoes don’t just stay in Chelsea,” said Bridges. “They go to Dexter, Jackson, Adrian, Stockbridge, anywhere they’re needed.

Bridges told The Sun Times that although WMC is partnering with CSB, anyone can buy and donate new pairs of shoes. New pairs of shoes for students can be dropped off at USArtQuest in Chelsea.

“Size doesn’t matter,” said Bridges. “If they want to buy shoes for students, you don’t have to have a name, just buy shoes. Feet grow so fast. Kids that got shoes this past week will still need boots this Winter.”

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