GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids nonprofit is giving away free shoes and supplies to kids heading back to school soon.
“I am happy they’re doing stuff like this, because this helps out a lot,” said parent Lanautica McDonald.
This year, the organization said it will be giving out around 4,100 pairs of shoes to students. The program has been around for 27 years, starting in 1996.
“Early on, In The Image’s years, the executive director at the time saw some kids during the day on the streets of Grand Rapids, and said, ‘Why aren’t you in school?’ And they said, ‘we don’t have shoes, we aren’t allowed to go to school,’ and she said, ‘We’re going to fix that problem,'” explained Ashley Lubbers, Executive Director of In The Image.
On Tuesday, News 8 checked out the nonprofit’s store on Kalamazoo Avenue, where the event is taking place. Dozens of kids were getting fitted and trying on their kicks.
Lubbers said so far this year, the group has given out just over 1,700 shoes since the event started last Wednesday.
“It’s been exciting,” she said. “Hard to believe it’s time for back to school, but here we are, and it’s been good.”
The kids aren’t the only ones with smiles on their faces. The parents are happy too.
“I feel wonderful,” said McDonald. “I am happy that I don’t have to buy shoes right away, and they’re good shoes too, and the backpacks and stuff too.”
In The Image is able to afford the shoes because of community donations. Each year, the event is run by a group of volunteers.
“I think it’s a great way of tangibly seeing who you’re serving,” said volunteer Rachel Jansheski. “In this particular situation, like each child that you’re serving, each family you’re serving, you get to see that they’re walking away with a smile on their face, they’re excited about their school year.”