ES Rotary Club kicks off school year with shoe giveaway

Friday, August 18, 2017
Eureka Springs Rotarian Cathy Handley gets ready for the club’s annual shoe giveaway to begin on Sunday, Aug. 13. This year, the club handed out 175 pairs of shoes to Carroll County children in need.
Photo by Tavi Ellis/Carroll County News

Thanks to the Eureka Springs Rotary Club, the new school year means a new pair of shoes for hundreds of Carroll County children in need. Rotary hosted its annual shoe giveaway on Sunday, Aug. 13, at the Eureka Springs High School cafeteria, where families from all over the county were welcome.

“Every year, something touches us more than the year before. We had a couple of new Rotarians that helped,” Rotarian Cathy Handley said. “They had never done it. They said they just didn’t understand how impactful it is on your life.”

Handley reported Tuesday that the club gave out 175 pairs of shoes this year, with 29 leftover pairs going to school counselors. The counselors can give those shoes out to students who need them throughout the year, Handley said. This year, she said, Rotary raised $3,500 for the shoe giveaway. That figure includes a$1,250 donation from the Eureka Springs High School Rotary Interact Club, she said.

Joanie Kratzer, sponsor of the club, said her students were happy to donate to the cause. Some of them even volunteered at the event, she said.

“They are helping the children in our community get a new pair of shoes to wear on their first day of school,” Kratzer said. “A lot of them came in shoes that were totally worn out, and they walked out of there with a brand-new pair of shoes. The Interact kids think it’s pretty great.”

The shoe giveaway was held in conjunction with Samaritans Feet, a nonprofit organization that gives shoes to families in need. Handley said she first became acquainted with the organization when she and her husband gave out shoes in Africa. After that, Handley said, they decided to bring the organization to Eureka Springs five years ago.

Her favorite part of the organization, Handley said, is its Christian roots. Rotarians washed the children’s feet before giving them a new pair of shoes, she said, and they prayed over students whose parents agreed to it.

“The kids, their eyes just light up,” Handley said. “Sometimes, the parents start crying, because somebody took the time to pray over their child.”

For some of these children, the shoe giveaway is their only chance to get a new pair of shoes before school starts. Handley remembered one family coming in two years ago, saying the father needed a new pair of shoes just as much as the children. He was given a pair, Handley said, and returned wearing the same pair the next year.

“The people that came are truly in need and extremely thankful. A lot of them wanted to write letters back to the Rotary thanking us for what we did,” Handley said.

Some of the students were especially excited about the shoe selection this year, Handley said.

“We had Converse at this time, and that was what a lot of them wanted,” Handley said. “They were thrilled, because they said, ‘This is exactly what we wanted.’ I think it makes them feel like part of the community more.”

Families came from all over Carroll County this year, Handley said, from Green Forest to Alpena to Eureka Springs. The club gave out more shoes than ever, she said, but hopes to give out even more next year.

“Our goal is, if needed, to be able to raise enough money to give out 400 pairs a year,” Handley said. “If you say you need them, we believe you must need them.”

Rotary raised the money for the event through its annual Victorian Classic event, which Handley said is the perfect way to go.

“You’re running and helping kids get shoes. That will probably never change,” Handley said. “This fundraiser will go on forever. We’re going to have a bigger, longer race this year, so we might make more money.”

After all, Handley said, it’s Rotary’s job to find ways to give back to the community.

“Our motto is ‘Service above self.’ There is not a single person in our club that would not give the shirt off their back to somebody who needed it,” Handley said. “We only do three things a year, and this is probably our most favorite. It’s touching, and you can’t do it without tears in your eyes. You just can’t. You can’t. There’s no way.”

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