It’s an exciting time for students who are preparing to start a new school year in just a few short weeks. For some parents, though, this is also a stressful time because the extra cost of back-to-school supplies and clothing is outside of their already tight budgets. Thanks to a very special donor, The Salvation Army in Central Indiana is able to ease these burdens with brand new shoes and socks for area children.

Shoes A“It’s all thanks to a donor, Mrs. Lewis, who’s been doing this for eight years,” explains Major John Turner, Divisional Commander for The Salvation Army in Indiana. “In those eight years she has given in excess of 1,200 pairs of shoes. We’re just so thankful for her. It’s a great day here at The Salvation Army.”

Mrs. Lewis, whose childhood as an orphan never included owning a new pair of shoes, is now 97 years old and determined to help these children never feel the embarrassment of showing up on the first day of school in tattered, too-small shoes.

Major Becky Stearns, who oversees The Salvation Army’s addiction rehabilitation facility, Harbor Light Center, sees the need first-hand every day. Some children in her care have a father in jail and a mother who can only find part-time work. Other families are scraping by on a one-parent income so that the other parent can stay home and take care of small children.

Shoes B

Shoe Carnival store manager Bill Grossman fits a child for new shoes

“It’s really hard to live today on a one-parent income with several children,” Major Becky says. “This is very meaningful to them because they may not have been able to afford new shoes this year. We’re very thankful for that, and I know that they are, too.”

This year around 350 children headed to The Salvation Army Fountain Square Corps Community Center, located on Indianapolis’ east side, to find the perfect pair of shoes for the school year. Some were part of Salvation Army Day Camps from around the city, while others were identified by area school liaisons and social workers as those with the greatest need.

For employees of Shoe Carnival, which brought 400 pairs of shoes in a variety of sizes and styles for the day’s fittings, experiencing the joy that these children expressed when they found their perfect match was both exciting and uplifting. “Anything that we can do to involve the community, be a part of the community, that’s easy stuff for us.” explains store manager Bill Grossman. “We don’t mind making a little less money in situations where we can help those who need help.”

Many of these children were also in attendance last Saturday at the Fountain Square Corps Back-to-School Community Day, where 342 backpacks filled with school supplies were distributed to students attending 15 area schools. This annual family event is a great time for neighbors to meet and learn more about services in the community while kids enjoy games, face painting and other fun activities.

Of course, the real magic happens when these children step into their schools, excited to see friends and explore a new classroom. They are prepared to learn with new school supplies and shoes and able to focus on making the most of the school year. For Mrs. Lewis and the donors who make all this possible, it is more than magic.

It’s a miracle.