LIMA — Heart and Sole of Allen County has donated more than 500 pairs of shoes to Allen County Schools since the non- profit’s inception in May 2019.
The organization was founded by Kim Graham and her daughter-in-law, Kandi Graham, who wanted to make sure students have needed shoes to go to school.
The Grahams are one of 12 people who received the Jefferson Award. The winner will represent the region in Washington, D.C.
They started Heart and Sole after doing volunteer work in the Lima schools and saw there was a need for shoes for students.
“A lot of times you look at kids in a school setting, and it’s the clothes, uniform and school supplies people think about donation-wise, but we looked at the shoes thinking they are forgotten about,” Kim Graham said.
The organization partnered with Shoe Carnival and Old Navy, and each student who receives the shoes is recommended by a parent, teacher or counselor. The organization receives needed shoe sizes from the staff, and then the stores get the orders ready.
Shoes range in sizes for pre-kindergarten through high school students and include tennis shoes, winter boots and sandals. The shoes are all donated through the fundraising efforts of the organization. On March 28 A Bags and Drags fundraiser will be held, which is a purse bingo raffle to raise funds for the shoes. There were 275 tickets sold last year, and the event is almost sold out for this year.
The Grahams are members of the Lima Exchange Club, an organization dedicated to child abuse prevention. Kim is the secretary of the group, and Kandi’s sister, Kitty Kill, is employed with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Allen County. This has provided them with a network to help reach out to children. They speak at organizations in Allen County to get the word out about Heart and Sole and where members are encouraged to donated to the cause to help children.
The shoes come inside a red-and-white reusable bag that has the Heart and Sole logo on it. There were more than 230 pairs of summer shoes donated to Unity Elementary, and they have donated over 350 school shoes and boots to the school.
Teachers distribute the shoes to students, and sometimes the Grahams interact with the youth and give them the shoes directly.
“When we give the kids shoes, their eyes lit up,” Kandi Graham said. “There was a little girl who came up to us and gave us a hug and said, ‘May God bless you for all you are doing.’
“The simple donation of a shoe can do so much for a child. Our slogan is: ‘A pair of shoes can change your life, just ask Cinderella.’”
She said they have seen students with shoes two sizes too big or small, and the soles are falling off. There was a child who did not have her own shoes, so she came to school in a pair of her dad’s shoes.
Tricia Winkler, Unity School principal, nominated the Grahams for the Jefferson Award.
“Heart and Sole not only helps students with warmth, confidence and pride, but also helps parents as well,” Winkler said.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.