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Rack Room Packs Joy With Over 400 Backpacks of Shoes

Elizabeth Gabriel

When you check out at a store, cashiers will often ask you to donate to a cause. As KLCC’s Elizabeth Gabriel reports, customer donations at Rack Room Shoes in Springfield provided an entire elementary school with free shoes.

This holiday season marks the fourth year Guy Lee Elementary school has received free kicks from Rack Room Shoes. 

Gerry Brode has been the manager of Rack Room Shoes in Springfield for six years. He said it was when he was driving to make bank deposits that he noticed kids were walking to school without coats during the winter season. Then, he looked down at their feet.  

“I realized and saw that some of the shoes were flopping off the kids' feet where you could tell that was a handy-me-down or mom or dad or brother or sister shoes that they were wearing,”  Brode. “You know. And then what really got me is when I saw one kid with duct tape shoes.

Credit Elizabeth Gabriel / KLCC News

Donations are collected for six to eight weeks before school starts and during the holiday season. Every dollar that the store earns through donations is matched by the company. This year, the store was able to donate $9,300 for volunteers to purchase shoes for students.

Elizabeth Miglioretto is the president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Guy Lee. She said she and volunteers went to the school for about five days to measure students’ feet.

“So when the kids had a PE class or an indoor recess, we lined them up on the stage and three or four of us, it would be one or two of us writing,” said Miglioretto. “We lined kids up and we'd said everybody take off your right shoe. And we measured their feet and then they got to put their shoe back on and head to PE or recess.”

Credit Elizabeth Gabriel / KLCC News

Although the gift of new footwear might not be a surprise for older students, principal Amber Mitchell said shoes were presented in a new way this year.

“This year, instead of wrapping them, we had backpacks donated from Costco at the beginning of the year and we decided to use those to put the shoes in,” Mitchell. “So all the students are getting both a pair of shoes and a free backpack.”

The students were presented with their backpacks at an assembly Friday, where they also sang holiday songs. 

Gladis Lopez is a fifth grader at Guy Lee who said she got new shoes at the beginning of the school year, but they’re already wearing out. 

“They got ruined very quickly since we did PE a lot,” said Mitchell.

Credit Elizabeth Gabriel / KLCC News

Lopez said she’s thankful for her sparkly new pink tennis shoes.

Students have the opportunity to return the shoes for the same price if they don’t fit or if they don’t like the style.

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.