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Program pairs kids with kicks

Low-income families get free stuff for school

For a 10-year-old, the end of summer vacation is bad enough without the embarrassment of having to go back to school in a raggedy old pair of shoes.

But for very low-income parents trying to make ends meet amid rising costs, including the cost of school supplies, purchases such as new shoes and underwear often have to wait.

On Monday, about 125 children in the SNAP and YWCA homeless programs picked up shoes, socks and underwear thanks to the cooperative effort of the Windermere Foundation and Big 5 Sporting Goods.

“This really helps,” said Jessica Dias, a resident of Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs’ Riverwalk Point apartments. “Without it, I’d have to get a loan.”

Dias brought her three children to the Big 5 store on North Division to pick out shoes and socks for her 8-year-old, who attends Cooper Elementary School, and her 4-year-old, who attends day care at the American Indian Community Center. She also will receive vouchers for underwear for the boys.

Before Monday, they had only the well-worn shoes they wore to the sporting goods store, Dias said.

The event is made possible through a $5,000 donation by the nonprofit organization of Windermere real estate agents, according to Teresa Morris, of Windermere Services. Windermere agents and store employees helped the children pick out their shoes.

The program has made it possible for more than 900 children to start the school year with a new pair of shoes in its 13 years in existence. The foundation also gives away boots and gloves each winter with the help of a Big 5 Sporting Goods discount.

Seeing the kids’ smiles makes it all worthwhile, said Big 5 store manager Steve Juul.

Similar back-to-school events are taking place elsewhere.

On Saturday, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Inland Northwest coordinated a $100 shopping spree for 60 children at the Fred Meyer store on Thor Street.

The event was funded by $6,000 in donations from Pemco Insurance, ReliOn Corp. and an anonymous donor. Volunteers helped the children select back-to-school clothes and shoes at a Fred Meyer discount.

“It was a wonderful show of support from the community,” said Lee Taylor, development director for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

On Thursday, seventh-graders at Glover Middle School will each get a backpack filled with school supplies at a back-to-school barbecue sponsored by Communities in Schools with the help of the school, Costco Wholesale Corp. and Comcast.

Communities in Schools, the nation’s largest drop-out prevention organization, will provide site coordinators to five Spokane County schools this year to help match students with needed resources.

Contact Kevin Graman at kevingr@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5433.

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