Many Marshalltown kids do not have winter coats. They don't have boots, or if they do, the ones they have are the wrong size.
Each year, Shoes That Fit aims to change that. By working with local elementary schools, the charity program aims to address this need by enlisting businesses across Marshalltown to purchase clothes and footwear for children that are without them.
Leona Huffaker, with OnMedia/Mediacom, who helps coordinate the program, said the need for the program has increased tremendously. When kids wear the wrong size clothes and shoes, it singles them out. And that singling out diminishes their self-confidence.
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
Linda Runner, a human resources specialist at Mechdyne, right, browses girl’s snow pants Thursday at Younkers as Leona Huffaker, with OnMedia/Mediacom, looks on. Runner and other Mechdyne and OnMedia employees purchased $2,500 in clothes, boots and other winter wear for children school staff identified as being in need as part of the Shoes That Fit program.
"It means learning takes a back seat to embarrassment," she said. "I want every kid to have the same chance at learning and feel good about themselves."
On Thursday, Mechdyne employees took $2,500 in company money to Younkers to purchase clothes for these children.
Counselors at each of seven elementary schools - Anson, Franklin, Fisher, Hoglan, Lenihan, Rogers and Woodbury - will distribute those clothes and footwear to more than 100 children they have identified.
Businesses participating in Shoes That Fit
McGregors Furniture, 111 W. Main St.
Jensen Ford, 2805 S. Center St.
Independent Insurance Services, 11 E. Church St.
United Bank and Trust, 2101 S. Center St.
School staff works confidentially with parents to identify what children need.
"If the teachers notice a need, there is a need," said Mary Ruopp, an OnMedia sales/research assistant, as she searched for the right size snow pants for an unidentified boy at Younkers Thursday afternoon.
Employees never know the name of the child for whom they are shopping. All the buyers know is the child's size, gender and what kind of winter wear that child lacks.
Paula Rutherford, the school nurse at Fisher Elementary, said the problem is also one of well-being.
She said the nurse's role at schools is ever expanding, and school nurses have a duty to promote the overall health and safety of the students.
"We are looking at children waiting for buses, riding buses, walking. They are out in the elements," she said. "The days of school nurses just being here to put on a Band-Aid or take a temperature are gone Our role has changed. We are trying to look at all aspects of student health."
Play is important as well, and children without adequate winter wear are unable to enjoy playing with their peers, she said. Children regularly come into her office with red, freezing hands because they don't have gloves.
The program originated in Des Moines but has become a perennial event in Marshalltown. Huffaker said Shoes That Fit is roughly halfway to its $30,000 goal, but with the Dec. 15 deadline just around the corner, it is coming down to the wire.
She said she has been with the program since it began in Marshalltown, and it has never failed to meet a need. She hopes that trend will continue.
Rutherford said the work is worth it.
"We get to see the delight in their faces and the gratitude from the parents," she said.
Those looking to buy an item for a child can pick up a donor card or drop off items purchased at any of the four participating businesses.
In addition to local businesses, including JBS, area churches and clubs help the effort along as well, Huffaker said.