“I WANT TO BE ABLE TO HELP PEOPLE WHEN I GET OLDER.”
“I DECIDED IT WAS TIME TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY.”
“I WAS NEVER MADE TO FEEL ASHAMED.”
“SERVING TOGETHER IS A MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE.”
“VOLUNTEERING HAS CHANGED MY STORY.”
“LET’S GO FOR A WALK!”
“THE WORK THEY ARE DOING IN OUR SCHOOLS IS TRANSFORMING YOUNG LIVES AND I’M SO GRATEFUL TO BE A PART OF THAT.”
“WITHOUT THE [SUPPORT OF] UNITED WAY, I DON’T THINK S.N.A.P. WOULD BE AS GREAT AS THEY ARE.”
“I WANT TO HELP OTHER KIDS WITH DISABILITIES LEARN.”
“I’VE BEEN SO HAPPY SINCE GETTING MY OWN PLACE. NOTHING CAN BREAK MY JOY!”
“SHERRY AT THE YWCA HELPED ME MOVE ON AND PROGRESS. SHE LISTENED WITHOUT BEING JUDGMENTAL, AND SHE REALLY CARED.”
“BEFORE THE YMCA, I COULDN’T GET MY MIND STRAIGHT TO FINISH SCHOOL. THEY’RE HELPING TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN.”
“THE BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS GAVE MY KIDS A FREE PLACE TO GO SO THAT I COULD COMPLETE MY NURSING DEGREE.”
“I’VE BECOME MORE GENEROUS AND AWARE BECAUSE OF MY TIME HERE.”
“I’M LUCKY TO BE ABLE TO USE MY PHOTOGRAPHY SKILLS TO CONNECT WITH MY COMMUNITY AND HELP OUT.”
“I KNOW MY CALLING. I WANT TO HELP THE ELDERLY BY BECOMING A HOME HEALTH AIDE.”
“IF YOU HAVE A HEART FOR CHILDREN, YOU’RE CAPABLE OF BEING A FOSTER PARENT.”
“IT WAS VERY HELPFUL HAVING THIS PERSON IN MY LIFE WHO HAD BEEN THERE TO HELP ME DO THE RIGHT THING.”
“IT DOESN’T TAKE MUCH MORE THAN A PHONE CALL AND A COUPLE OF VOLUNTEERS.”
“WE’RE HOLDING OUR OWN NOW. OUR HEADS ARE FINALLY ABOVE WATER.”
“NOW I’M ON MY WAY. I FEEL GOOD ABOUT MYSELF. I FEEL LIKE I CAN BE A PROVIDER FOR MY CHILDREN.”
“I WANT TO GIVE HER THE BEST START POSSIBLE BECAUSE SHE LOVES TO LEARN AND WE WANT TO KEEP FEEDING THAT LOVE.”
Leatrice Fullerton joined First Day Shoe Fund earlier this year as a program committee member, and is one of dozens of volunteers who keep thousands of children – a record 4,684 this year alone – outfitted in new shoes at the beginning of each school year.
She holds a deep connection to the organization’s mission, she said, for the smiles she’s seen it bring to children’s faces, and also for the gratitude she feels for having experienced the impact as a recipient family several years ago.
Fullerton and her 6-year-old son, Aaron Pertee, shared their experience and passion for First Day Shoe Fund at United Way’s Dec. 5 Basic Needs Pop Up Giving event. After learning about the program and two others – Food Bank of South Central Michigan and Kalamazoo Drop-In Child Care Center – attendees voted to grant $1,500 to the First Day Shoe Fund.
“The board of directors and committee volunteers work hard all year to raise funds to serve as many children as possible, so to have a pleasant surprise like this come through is a huge help to an organization our size,” First Day Shoe Fund Executive Director John Curran said.
He said they currently distribute shoes to eligible children in Kalamazoo Public Schools, Comstock Public Schools, Paramount Charter Academy and Woods Edge Learning Center, and hope to grow capacity to meet the requests coming from other areas.
“There is need in every community,” Curran said. “Spend one shift fitting shoes onto children’s feet in our schools and you will see the need that exists, and how happy a child can be when presented with a new pair of shoes just for them. Every child should have that basic feeling of shoes that fit properly and allow them to run and play.”
Fullerton’s children no longer qualify to receive shoes, but she remembers well what it was like to benefit from the program.
“I went through a period of being unemployed after receiving a Master’s degree in social work,” she said. “As you can imagine, this was one of the most difficult times in my life. I was a single mother with a disability looking for work, dealing with rejection letter after rejection letter.
“Having to make the decision of whether to buy shoes and clothes for school for the kids or pay bills is a difficult position for any parent to be in. Being able to benefit from First Day Shoe Fund was huge to our family. Not having to spend money on shoes allowed me to spend more money on the cost of living.
“I am, and will always be grateful to them for who they are to so many children and families in this community.”
Two ways to get involved with First Day Shoe Fund
• Summer and Fall Distributions: Volunteers are needed for a variety of duties during distribution events. Duties range from fitting shoes onto children’s feet to packaging shoe orders and loading trucks.
• Year-Round: A volunteer committee structure supports functions like public relations and marketing, fund development and programming.