With the start of each new school year, children work to find the educational stride that will set them on the right path. Community organization Shoe Buddy helps out by providing students the right pair of shoes that not only provides comfort but confidence as well.
Shoe Buddy was founded in 2010 by Melveene Dixon to honor the memory of her father, Buddy Gibson, and the dream he had to provide children in need with a new pair of shoes. In its first year, Shoe Buddy was able to help 25 children and, last year, that number had grown to 270.
Dixon said the program continues to grow each year with both donations and volunteers. This year’s goal is to provide shoes for at least 250 children and more if resources are available.
“Shoe Buddy provides vouchers to local aid organizations such as Common Ground Ministries, Waxahachie Care and local children’s homes, which in turn give vouchers to children they know to be in need,” Dixon said. “Children, along with parents or guardians, then bring vouchers to Famous Footwear in Waxahachie on Aug. 5, 6, 7 or 8 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. There, they pick out their own new school shoes at no cost.”
Dixon shared with the Sun that there’s a transformation that takes place when a child receives a new pair of shoes.
“Their eyes light up and they are so excited,” she said. “For some of them, this is their first pair of new shoes. It is really exciting for both the parents or guardians and the children to leave here with a new pair of shoes. Some leave here crying because of the thankfulness to be able to provide a new pair of shoes for their child.”
Shoe Buddy volunteer and retired shoe salesman Jim Jordan share Dixon’s feelings about how a pair of shoes can impact a child’s life. He noted that a new pair of shoes builds a child’s confidence where they walk a little bit taller with pride.
“This is a labor of love helping children,” Jordan said. “Going back to school is the time when every kid needs a new pair of shoes because they have grown throughout the summer. So, this is the right time and the right place. We feel like we are doing the thing that the Lord wants us to do in helping his children in this wonderful way.”
Jordan expressed his appreciation to Famous Footwear, which gives Shoe Buddy special pricing so the organization can help more children in need. During the shoe fitting event in August, volunteers help recipients find the shoes they need, ensure they fit correctly and help them through the checkout process. All volunteers are screened by Shoe Buddy staff before the event.
Famous Footwear store manager Tammy Louria said it’s a pleasure to work alongside Shoe Buddy each year to help children in the community.
“They are a wonderful group with a big heart,” she said. “It is wonderful to see the parents and grandparents coming in here because really and truly, if it were not for them, they would not get any shoes.
“The kids are all excited and they are bubbling,” she said. “It makes them really happy and they are really proud when they walk out with their new shoes.”
Shoe Buddy, which is undergoing the process to become a standalone nonprofit, is currently working through First Baptist Church of Waxahachie to accept donations. Donations can be dropped off or mailed to the church’s business office. People writing a check need to make it out to First Baptist Church Waxahachie and mark it for “missions” in the memo line. Donors also are asked to include a separate note indicating their gift is for Shoe Buddy. Throughout July, all mission designations through First Baptist will go to Shoe Buddy. The church is located at 450 E. U.S. Highway 287 in Waxahachie.
Dixon said it’s great to see how the community has come together to help over the years.
“In prior years, churches, as well as families, have very effectively used Shoe Buddy as a teaching tool for children learning the spirit of giving,” Dixon said. “One church used it as a vacation Bible school mission project. It is fun to watch little children bring their nickels and dimes to help buy shoes for less fortunate children. It is just a dream come true to honor my dad. This is in his memory.”
People who have questions about the Shoe Buddy program, who want to make a donation or who wish to volunteer during the shoe fitting event at Famous Footwear are asked to contact Dixon by phone at 972-938-6976 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.