By TRAVIS MORSE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON – Kingdom Seed Ministries has raised enough money to give away 500 pairs of gym shoes to children in need at a special back-to-school bash from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at 118 N. Ninth St.
And while organizers are ecstatic to have met their fundraising goal for the program's first year, they hope to accomplish even more in the future. The program in question is called Happy Feet.
“It's a huge deal that we reached our goal, but we'd really like to do more,” said Monte Jo Clark, who serves on the elder board for Kingdom Seed Ministries. “Next year, we'd like to double (the 500 total) or get even more.”
Organizers are also investigating whether the program could be expanded in the future beyond just Jefferson County, Clark said.
“We want to expand it into surrounding counties,” Clark said. “But we'd like to help even more (children) in Jefferson County next year, too.”
Happy Feet was launched earlier this year as a way to supply brand name, high-quality gym shoes to area children from low-income households.
For the first year, the shoes are being offered to kindergarten through eighth grade students, but the program may be opened up to additional age groups later on, Clark said.
Roughly $10,000 was raised this year to provide 500 pairs of shoes. One of the major fundraisers was a pork chop lunch held July 19.
Prior to the bash, qualifying students received Happy Feet vouchers when they completed registration at their school. However, only certain area schools participated.
Now, at today's event, the children will exchange their vouchers for a pair of shoes. All shoes have been spoken for and only those with vouchers will receive a pair.
“We have given out 500 vouchers and it all happens (Saturday),” Clark said.
Today's bash will also feature a wealth of family friendly activities, including a bounce house, face-painting, balloons, and free popcorn and snow cones.
Happy Feet is a joint effort by Kingdom Seed Ministries and Shoe Stop, Inc. Shoe Stop in Mt. Vernon has provided the shoes for this year's program.
Organizers decided to focus on gym shoes because there are no assistance programs available for them.
Clark estimated there are at least 2,000 kindergarten through eighth grade students in Jefferson County who come from low-income households.
For more information on Happy Feet, contact Kingdom Seed Ministries at 731-2599.