The Russellville Rotary Foundation is starting up its fund drive for the upcoming school year and the Happy Feet = Learning Feet program, which gives free shoes to needy children.
Letters asking for support of the program have already gone out to many in the community.
This will be the sixth year for the program, which has given out 1,534 pairs of free shoes to children the past five years.
“Our two school superintendents and the family resource personnel at the various schools have been wonderful to coordinate this project,” said Jim Riley, project chairman for the Rotary Club. “We wound up giving out pairs of shoes to the neediest young people and provided additional shoes throughout the year to those that the schools thought was in an emergency situation where they needed help.”
In addition to the Happy Feet program, the Rotary also started supporting a second, similar project four years ago – Project Warm.
Project Warm provided good winter coats to many of those same children. In the four years Operation Warm has been going, some 901 coats have been given out to deserving students.
Rotary is adding a third component to the programs this year and will be providing a pair of new blue jeans to the students who need them most.
“Quite frankly, because of the generosity of the community in years past, we are now able to do this,” Riley said. “We’re not in the business of keeping money in a bank account, we’re trying to help needy children.”
Giving children a pair of jeans is expected to cost the program an additional $4,500-$5,000, but Riley said he is confident the community will help make it happen.
Most of the money for the programs comes through community donations.
One of the most impressive aspects of that program is that the children receiving the coats and shoes are not recognizable by them.
Riley said that this year there will be 24 different patterns of coats and five different patterns of shoes for the children to pick from.
“There was all kinds of patterns, so the kids won’t be stereotyped for having a free coat or free shoes,” Riley said.
All contributions will go directly to buying shoes, coats and jeans for needy children in the community and they are 100 percent tax deductible.
Riley said Rotary is expecting to help about the same number of children this year.
“We think the needs will be pretty close to the same,” he said. “We don’t know until we get them in school though.”
The family resource directors in the individual schools will identify the children they feel are the most needy.
If you would like to make a donation, it can be mailed to the Russellville Rotary Foundation, c/o Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC, CPAs, 167 South Main Street, Russellville, KY 42276.