SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio nonprofit Zapatos collects and distributes shoes to children in need, but their mission extends beyond footwear.
Even during the midst of a shoe drive, the organization is actively working with local schools to put those donations to work.
On Wednesday, some students in grades pre-k to second grade lined up outside Murnin Elementary School on the city’s Far West Side as volunteers waited inside to gift them a new pair of shoes.
Principal Amber Freeman said the shoe distribution was definitely thrilling.
“Having community partners come in and public service workers come in to help actually put the kids’ shoes on for them was just even more exciting for the kids,” she said.
The volunteers included people from Zapatos, the San Antonio Police Department and community members.
It was Kyle Short and Andrew McDonald’s first time volunteering with the organization. They said that seeing the smiles on the children’s faces as they received a new pair of shoes was memorable.
“It’s been a joy just seeing the children light up when they get a new pair of shoes. You know, being able to see the children talking to their friends, showing off the new shoes that they’ve got, jumping up and down trying to break them in. It’s been really sweet watching them, watching the joy of those children,” said McDonald.
During the event, the children were brought individually to a volunteer who would help them remove their old shoes and fit them with a new pair.
“Talking to the kids was a lot of fun. Seeing what their favorite sport was, who their favorite Spurs player was, their favorite color, what they liked about school. Some liked math. One young lady said she liked being kind, that was her favorite part of school,” Short said.
Zapatos Inc. is a nonprofit foundation that, through generous donations, provides shoes to school-aged children in need throughout Bexar County.
Principal Freeman said in the nine years she’s been at Murnin, the need for assistance has increased.
“When I started, we had about 56% of our students who qualified for free or reduced lunch. This current year we’re almost up to 80%. So, we’ve seen in the last nine years, a different demographic and different needs of our students and their families so being able to help ease the burden of buying new school shoes as kids’ feet grow fast is one thing we would love to do for our parents,” Freeman said.
The school helps identify the children who are in need of new shoes.
“We thought that this service would be a great service to the families, especially during the holidays. We’re always working to help our community with new opportunities whether it’s through shoes, clothes, school supplies, holiday meals or toys. I’m always trying to find different partnerships in our community that are willing to work with us to be able to give this outlet to our families and especially our children,” said Juan Velasquez the family liaison at Murnin Elementary School.
Velasquez said he loves to see the smiles on the children’s faces and their excitement as they show off their new shoes.
“For many of these children, they probably haven’t had a new pair of shoes for a long time. They might be hand-me-downs from other family (members). So, to get shoes, I think for a lot of them it’s like an early Christmas gift,” he said.
Velasquez said it was also meaningful to have SAPD officers be part of the event.
“I think it lets children see a different perspective of them and see a different light in them. Seeing them smile and tie their shoes, it’s probably something the children have never experienced,” Velasquez said. “So, to see them here and supporting us it kind of gives the children an idea that, ‘Hey you know these individuals are here to help us. If you ever need something reach out to them don’t be scared of them, they’re great people to work with.’ I think that’s the message that comes across with them being here.”
SAPD’s Share the Shoes annual collection drive is going on through Dec. 12. New shoes and socks can be dropped off at any of the SAPD substations.
Zapatos Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2015 by Maria Gloria Martinez. Over 300 students were served in 2016 and 703 in 2017. Zapatos Inc. strives to help society’s less fortunate families by providing new shoes. ‘Shoes are foundational; Shoes are Fundamental.’
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