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Steppin’ Up

Shoe Bank celebrates 15 years of giving

PHOTOS PROVIDED Torieona Patrick, daughter of Arizona Thompson, receives a “birthday cupcake” at the Shoe Bank, which is celebrating its 15th year.

LOCK HAVEN — A room full of brand-new shoes. Another room full of new winter boots in all sorts of styles. The Lock Haven Area Shoe Bank has a lot to offer!

This is the program’s 15th year of giving free new sneakers to kids and teens. To celebrate, every child and teen gets a cupcake or other party favor when they visit.

“The birthday celebration started last October, and the fun will go on throughout 2021,” co-director Diahann Claghorn said.

The Shoe Bank is open at least one Saturday a month, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., inside Covenant United Methodist Church, 44 W. Main St. Kids and youth can choose a pair of new shoes and new socks. They also get a free book.

Time slots are available right now for Saturdays, May 15 and May 22. Call or text 814-571-5324 (Monday-Friday 7-9 p.m., please).

The Shoe Bank gives free, new shoes for young feet. Sneakers and shoes that fit can help with healthy foot development. They also help students concentrate in school. “It’s hard to pay attention when your feet are cold and wet, or your toes feel pinched,” another co-director said.

Kids and teens are eligible for shoes and boots if they live anywhere in Clinton County or the Liberty-Curtin Elementary School area and have a PA Access, CHIP, or similar insurance card.

New shoes for kids… it’s a simple idea.

It appealed to Dr. Chick Empfield who heard about a similar program at a State College church. He investigated how it works, then proposed it here in 2006. He also helped get Shoes for Shore going in Jersey Shore, where he resides.

Delores “Dee” Taylor became the Lock Haven Area Shoe Bank’s first executive director, buying the shoes, stocking shelves, gathering a group of faithful volunteers.

Church leadership, including then-church pastor Rev. Kathy Kind, gave strong support.

But the Shoe Bank is not a church mission as such. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, run entirely by volunteers.

Empfield has served on the board of directors for all 15 years. The current board also includes the three co-directors, who are Claghorn, Marianne Lotfi and Wendy Doherty. Carol Brown is vice president, Jeanne Baker is treasurer and spreadsheet expert, and Sharon Culvey and Covenant pastor Rev. Alison Grove are members at large. Dale and Eileen Haines are among the willing volunteers when Shoe Bank day arrives each month.

The program is also totally dependent on grants and donations. The Shoe Bank could not exist without contributions from the larger community, including M&T Bank, New Hope Fellowship, Blanchard Church of Christ, Rotary of Downtown Lock Haven, and many other civic groups and individuals.

The Clinton County Community Foundation has given the most significant amount every year, most recently awarding $10,000. In 2020, the Foundation was able to give a second grant, and the Shoe Bank used the funds to buy more winter boots, expanding the selections available.

Covenant has always provided space and utilities, and as the program has grown, the church has responded. Five years ago, the church opened up a larger room for the shoes, and just this year, it provided a second room for all those new winter boots.

The Shoe Bank spends most of its donated dollars directly on shoes, boots and socks. Less than 4% goes for office supplies like printer ink and postage. Books come from the community and people have been generous, especially during The Express community newspaper’s book drive each December.

“I don’t know what we would do without the goodwill of the Foundation, the churches, and everyone who has helped,” Claghorn said.

The Shoe Bank first opened its doors in October 2006, giving shoes for 65 pairs of feet. In 2019, the program set a record by giving 572 pairs of shoes or boots. In fact, thousands of pairs have been given over the past 15 years.

Because of COVID-19, the Shoe Bank has not been open as often as volunteers would like. And precautions were put in place. Now everyone must wear a mask and have their temperature taken; volunteers clean before a new family comes into the room; and families must call or text in advance for a time slot.

“These procedures have made a big difference,” Doherty said. “Everyone knows what to expect. The stress level is low and the overall experience is pleasant.”

Claghorn and Lotfi are both retired educators and bring invaluable experience to the program. Claghorn enjoys turning the rooms into vibrant, welcoming places for kids.

Affectionately known as “Super Shoe Shopper,” she is good at finding low prices on popular brands. Every size is offered, with shoes for tiny feet to very large teen feet. Older youth can find sneakers or shoes in some half-sizes as well. All are encouraged to choose something in their size that they really like, and therefore will actually wear.

The volunteers do what they do, and donors support them, because they see a need and are happy to help. Their thanks? Big smiles on young faces, and the words, “Look at my new shoes!”

For more information, find Lock Haven Area Shoe Bank on Facebook or call or text 814-571-5324.

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