Footwear with Care is a partnership between Fleet Feet Sports, the Connecticut Podiatric Medical Association, the Hartford Police Department and Community Partners in Action. It began in January of 2016 when Officer Jimmy Barrett asked Abby Moore, a friend and fellow Fleet Feet customer, if she could get a pair of shoes for a homeless veteran he was helping who only had flip flops despite the bitter CT cold.
Abby’s first stop was Fleet Feet. Upon learning why she was buying a pair of sneakers, we gave her not one, but 50 pairs of shoes from our Shoe Library. Abby gave a few pairs of shoes to Officer Barrett to distribute on his beat and the rest to Community Partners in Action, an organization which helps those recently released from prison find shelter and jobs.
Those 50 shoes found new souls within 24 hours bringing to light a huge need to provide durable footwear to the homeless and at-risk populations. A need that would require more shoes than what we had in our Library. A need that could only be satiated if we involved our community.
That April we hosted our first “Stuff a Cruiser” shoe drive to collect new/gently-used sneakers and monetary donations. Officer Barrett parked his police cruiser in front of the store and within an hour had to call for back-up as our customers and vendor partners showed up with so many shoes that we needed a second cruiser. In all, over 500 shoes - and over $1,000 - were collected that morning.
A week later, we hosted a Shoe Clinic in the basement of a local church. Community Partners in Action & Officer Barrett spent the week before visiting shelters to hand out invitations to those who most needed shoes (and wouldn’t sell them for drugs). During the clinic, a team of local podiatrists donated their expertise to provide foot care, including referrals for free care at their clinic if problems were discovered. While the church volunteers served them sandwiches and cookies.
From there, the Fleet Feet crew measured each person’s foot before giving them a pair of new socks and fitting them for shoes. One of my favorite moments was helping an older man with thick, grey dreadlocks that hung past his shoulders. As I slipped the shoes on his feet, he started to tear up. He put his hand on my shoulder and said “This must be what Jesus felt like”. When I asked “How so?” he recounted the story of Mary Magdalene washing Jesus’ feet and gave me the most heartfelt hug I’ve had in years.
The day, we provided shoes, socks and meals to over 250 men, women and children. My heart melted when one of the kids showed their mom the shoes and said “now I can run at recess since I have shoes like the other kids”.
We now host two Stuff-a-Cruiser and Foot Clinics each year (April & December) - with the spring event being focused on sneakers and the winter event, waterproof boots. We are honored that the City of Hartford has formally recognized our program and allows us to use the beautiful City Hall lobby to host our Clinics. At our 3rd Clinic in April of 2017, we provided over 500 people with foot care, shoes, socks, lunch and a bag of toiletries (thanks to the help of over 50 volunteers).
As you can see, the need in our own community is great and every little bit helps.
(select "Footwear with Care" in the drop-down menu - all donations are tax deductible)
IN THE NEWS:
This is a homeless man who stopped by for a little help from my friends at Community Partners in Action today. While waiting, the man and the boy--with his mom looking on-- began chatting. "Are you Santa?" the boy asked. The man just smiled. When my friend Deb Barrows appeared with a new toy dump truck, the answer was obvious. The little guy had wanted a toy truck for Christmas, but his family is struggling, too. A nice, new toy wasn't likely. Until today. And Santa? He got a gift, too--besides making the boy so happy-- a new pair of Wolverine boots from our Footwear with Care program that we hope will see our homeless Santa through the winter.