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Free shoes to be distributed to thousands of students | News

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Free shoes to be distributed to thousands of students

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)- Thousands of West Michigan students will be starting off their school year on the right foot thanks to the kindess of strangers.

The non-profit organization "In the Image" is hosting it's annual "S.H.O.E.S." program. S.H.O.E.S. is an acronym for "Shoes Help Our Elementary Students."

This year a record number of shoes will be handed out.

It's been almost a year since Jay Starkey took on the role as Executive Director at In the Image. He says he knows firsthand about the need for the S.H.O.E.S. program and he's worked to expand it.

"Coming from an impoverished youth, where we were homeless for a couple of years, I know what it's like to suffer and struggle and I've been blessed enough not to do that in my adulthood. And I brought my kids in to volunteer, my family members and this is before I got the job," says Starkey.

For the past 16 years, free shoes were given out to Grand Rapids Public School students, but this week students from Wyoming and Kentwood will also be recipients. A total of 9,000 shoes have been donated. That's about 3,000 more than in years past. And, the number of people who will show up, on their own time, to help children find the right fit have also increased.

Starkey says, "I expect to have 500 volunteers this year and this was all literally in 3-4 weeks that this has happened. What I'm impressed with is there is so many new people that haven't helped before. So, our community is an amazing community so when you are able to get them involved. It's just awesome."

To participate, you need bring proof that your child is an elementary school student in Grand Rapids, Wyoming, or Kentwood.

The S.H.O.E.S. program will be happening throughout the week at In the Image located at 1823 South Division in Grand Rapids.

The hours Monday through Thursday are 10:00 am -Noon, 1:30-3:30 pm, and 5:00 - 8:00 pm. Friday's hours will be 10:00 am - Noon and 1:30 - 3:30 pm. 

For more information, call (616) 456-6150.