TERRE HAUTE —
A little girl skipped happily up the hallway at Meadows Elementary School recently in her new pink shoes. Another student who had just gotten a new pair of shoes decided to carry his footgear back into the school, saying he wanted to save his shoes for Sunday.
They had just come from the Shoe Bus, said interim principal Cassandra Cook, giving examples of the hundreds of low-income students in the Vigo County School Corp. who will visit the Shoe Bus during this school year.
About 1,200 pairs of new shoes will be given out to school children in need by the Terre Haute Women’s Club, which coordinates the weekly delivery to students in grades K-12.
The club dedicated its sparkling new Shoe Bus at Meadows School on Tuesday to the applause of many supporters as club president Nansue Dean cut the ribbon on the bus.
“It really kinda chokes us up to think about what you do for us,” School Superintendent Danny Tanoos told the club members. In a district where about 56 percent of students received free or reduced-cost lunches, the need is high for the Shoe Bus, he said.
“Many times, kids are embarrassed to come to school because of their shoes or their clothes,” Tanoos said. “Because of your servant heart, these kids have what they need to go to school.”
Dean expressed the club’s thanks at the receipt of $25,000 from the school district toward the purchase of shoes and for operation of the Shoe Bus. The shoes are purchased through donations received by club members, gifts from friends and through the group’s annual fundraiser, “An Evening of Art and Wine.”
The Terre Haute Women’s Club formed in 1971, with members dedicating themselves to projects benefiting children. In 1972, the idea of giving shoes to students in need was developed, and that became the “sole” project of the club.
In the beginning, the club gave used shoes, said club member Imogene Roberts, but that changed early in the project. In addition to about 1,200 pairs of new shoes each year, the club gives two pairs of new socks along with each pair of new shoes.
The bus runs routes weekly, sometimes visiting multiple schools on the same day to deliver a few shoes as needed. The school staff is charged with identifying students who could benefit from a trip by the shoe bus, and the school then contacts the Women’s Club to arrange a visit by the bus.
During its 41-year history, the club has had six different vehicles to make its deliveries. One of those vehicles was a van that could never be driven in reverse.
The new Shoe Bus was customized to meet the club’s needs. Among those credited with supporting the project are Bob Bowen of Bob Bowen Ford, Deanna Lichtenberger Memorial Fund, Doug Jenkins at Carpet One, Jeff Milster at Carpenter Bus Co., Jim Stoltz at Overhead Door, architect Natalie Roberts Rupert, Shelly Aker of Aker Upholstery, and Steve Kostyo and Andy Organ of Kostyo Woodworking.
The annual fundraiser for the Shoe Bus is set for April 12, 2014. Anyone wanting to support the project can contact any Women’s Club member or any Vigo County school.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.