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Getting their kicks

New neon pink shoes with orange laces put a smile on Godfrey Early Childhood Center student Dulce Venegas’ face, and she declares herself ready “to run.”Dulce Venegas is ready for school

Mom is happy too. “It’s a big help,” says Lucia Venegas, whose three children received free, back-to-school shoes from In the Image, a faith-based non-profit organization at 1823 South Division Ave. Her son Jesus, 10, says he looks forward to playing soccer in his new pair.

“You can choose the kind you want,” he says happily. All around them, students are fitted for new shoes, choosing from many different colors and styles.

Multiplying pairs

The two-week giveaway for kindergarten through fifth-grade students through Aug. 30, has taken place for 16 years with the number of shoes donated increasing from an initial 4,000-5,000 pairs to 9,000 last year and 13,000 this year, says In the Image Executive Director Jay Starkey. 

The program helps schools that serve populations with significant need, he says. This year that included all students from Grand Rapids Public elementary schools, Godfrey-Lee schools, Wyoming Public Schools and Kentwood Public Schools. Students receive certificates in the mail to get shoes or can present proof of their enrollment.

Several styles and colors were available to choose fromIn the Images’ Shoes Help Our Elementary Students (S.H.O.E.S) program is funded through donations and proceeds from the organization’s recycling program. Volunteers shop for new shoes, which cost about $13 because of the bulk rate the organization receives.

“We show them we believe in them; God believes in them and, hopefully, they will believe in themselves,” Starkey says. “The smiles on the kids” faces explain without words the reason behind program.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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