Robertson / Pye / Broyles
Debbie Pye (center) is welcomed by Rotarians Wanda Robertson and Don Broyles.
'Shoes That Fit'
Debbie Pye offers footwear assistance for children

October 6, 2015

"What is it with shoes?" Debbie Pye asked Putnam Rotarians today.

A charter member of the club twenty years ago, Pye once managed the All Through the House shop for home furnishings and decor before she settled into retirement with grandchildren and homes in Florida and West Virginia.

"Us women," she said, "nobody messes with our shoes! Nobody counts how many pairs we own.

"And children also want new shoes to show off, especially when the school year begins. They want to be like all other children.

"Even new babies. They can't even talk. But you put a new pair of shoes on them, and they smile and point to their shoes.

"One of the most obvious signs of children living in poverty are their shoes. They're ill-fitting or they're tattered and torn.

"Such a simple thing such as a pair of shoes makes a huge impact on a child, to their self-esteem, to their ability to fit in with others."

"We have children in Putnam County today," Pye continued, "children who are wearing worn and tattered hand-me-downs. Some actually have duct tape around their shoes holding them together.

"And it's not just the image," said Pye. "It's the fit. Many children are wearing shoes that are 'way too small for their feet. They are uncomfortable all day, and all they can think about is, 'My feet hurt.'

As Debbie Pye focused on footwear needs, she connected with Shoes That Fit, a top-ranking national charity which has provided nearly 1.5 million pairs of new shoes to children in thousands of schools since its startup in 1992.

Supported by Hurricane's Church of the Ascension, Pye chartered a local chapter of the footwear program.

How does it work? A counselor at the school compiles a needs list and communicates with parents.

Families who wish to participate bring children in before school starts in the fall to measure for foot size. Then shoes are purchased by the charity team and distributed by the school.

Donations and volunteer assistance are needed, and local contributions all go directly to the children. Cost of children's tennis shoes are estimated to be $35 to $45 per pair, often with special store discounts to the charitable group.

The program enables children in need to attend school in comfort and dignity, said Pye. It allows children to focus on their studies and not on their circumstances.

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