Dana May shows off her pretty new blue and white shoes.
If you are feeling a little low or overwhelmed about this time next year — with summer ending and school starting and the crush of planning for the fall season here in Knoxville — I have a perfect antidote. Volunteer to help distribute shoes and school supplies as part of the Knoxville Area Urban League‘s Shoes for School program.
The event, in its ninth year this year, was held this past weekend at Caswell Park, just a few yards from the Urban League office in East Knoxville. With more than 3,500 people on-site and 1,000 children getting brand new athletic shoes and about 1,500 getting school supplies, it definitely was a spirit-lifter. Thirty local companies made the day possible by setting up booths to distribute supplies and operate games and the huge inflatables that made for the fun carnival-like atmosphere of the morning. Twenty-two area agencies screened the children in their programs to determine who needed the shoes. Individuals and companies made donations to purchase the shoes at a discount. And then it all came together.
Tim Romero, left, of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and Frank Rothermel of Denark Construction. Both are on the Urban League's board of directors.
The folks from Enterprise Rent-A-Car came up with this idea nine years ago and brought it to the Urban League. And the program has grown. The first year, only 250 pairs of shoes were distributed.
Phyllis Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League, said the troubled economy has caused an increase in the number of children needing help getting ready for the start of school. “It’s grown because we have invited more agencies to participate,” Nichols said. “We are fortunate in that the number of companies supporting the project also has grown.” She said four new companies joined this year, bringing the total to 30.
A special thanks also goes to the city of Knoxville’s Department of Parks and Recreation, Nichols said, because they get Caswell Park ready for the event and then make sure the park “is as pristine on Sunday as it was on Saturday.” Folks from Parks and Rec also set up a huge grill and cook hundreds of hotdogs for the event.
If you or your company would like to be a part of this great project, contact the Urban League. Click here to go to the Urban League website.
The event starts at 9 a.m. and this Saturday, the sky over Caswell Park was overcast. But that turned out to be a blessing as it kept temperatures lower than they usually are for this event.
Two other Urban League board members, Debbie Stevens, left, of the Lewis King law firm, and Rosa Mar of Levi Strauss, give out supplies.
Staffing the Home Federal Bank tent, from left: Jan Evridge, Vaughn York, Julie Crutchfield, Tina Griffin, Kim Woods and Lauren Guigon.
The group spent days prior to Saturday stuffing and labeling the goodie bags of school supplies.
Over at the Read and Rise booth where children's books were being distributed, little volunteer Presley Ford, right, was chatting with Gracey Smith.
Believe it or not, inside this 'Droid costume is Tom Catani, the regional vice president of U.S. Cellular and an active Urban League board member!
The 'Droid leads children in a conga line! What fun!
Catani couldn't resist crashing the booth of U.S. Cellular's rival, AT&T! He poses here with AT&T's Alan Hill, another Urban League board member. All in good fun, of course!
The folks from Denso brought a robot that performed five different golf putts -- and swept the green between each one!
The kids loved watching that robot.
Rural/Metro gave tours of a real ambulance. Here's EMT Cecil Higginbotham waiting for the next group of takers.
Phyllis Nichols, the president and CEO of the Urban League, gives an interview to WVLT-TV's Jason Tighe. The local media gave great coverage. Thanks so much to WATE, WBIR and the News Sentinel, as well.
Cynthia White and Mike Veneris were some of the Alcoa employees on hand.
They said there were between 400 and 500 cans in this small cube.
Urban League board member Al Pirie of Uster Technologies, was passing out rulers.
Who doesn't need a ruler?
The football toss was popular.
So was the basketball toss. Hey, wait a minute! Those folks aren't children -- they are volunteers! Oh, well, they deserved a break!
OK. Here's what it's all about. Alexia Morrison loved her awesome new shoes.
Ezekiel Sabinve's shoes were very cool, don't you think?
Java'e Frances got some pretty ones.
From left, Rosa Mar, Gwen Brown, Angela and Drew Starke. Rosa, Gwen and Drew are Urban League board members. Angela is with the city of Knoxville.
Connie Cooper, left, of Scripps with Phyllis Nichols. Scripps provided 1,000 blue backpacks filled with school supplies.
Peyton Hairston of TVA was handing out stress balls. "They're for the parents," he quipped.
Shaun Lyon of Rural/Metro and Avis Young of UPS. Lyon used to work at UPS with Young and they were catching up.
Urban League board member Rita Geier answering questions.
Phyllis Nichols and Gwen McKenzie, right. Gwen's father was the first president of the Knoxville Area Urban League.
Drew Starke and Jim Nichols
The swings were busy all morning.
Pepsi guy Patrick Powell hauling ice. Nobody likes a hot Pepsi!
Here are those Parks and Rec guys minding the dogs.
Meanwhile, Anita Lane, an Urban League Young Professional, was minding the Cheetos!
Click here for a great blog post Phyllis Nichols wrote about Shoes for School last year.
What a great event. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for capturing Shoes for School to show how something as simple as a new pair of shoes makes such a difference. Volunteers return each year. Donors give because they see the immediate impact. Companies know they have indeed helped kids. And the KAUL board members – THE BEST BOARD EVER!!!
Phyllis: It is truly a rewarding experience.
Great job capturing the magic of Shoes for School — and great photos!
A fun day for an awesome cause! Thanks for posting the details and showing us the smiling recipients!
This is an absolutely wonderful project. One of the best, Phyllis.
Thanks, folks. This is a wonderful way to spend a morning. I recommend you join us next year!
Great write-up on this important community event!
About the Author
What You’re Saying
My Favorite Blogs