See them running and playing with newfound confidence, excited for their first day of school and the chance to “fit in” with their peers! Thanks to a loving organization known as My New Red Shoes, 491 school-aged kids throughout greater Portland are walking into school this Fall with a new pair of shoes and a new spring in their step.
It’s been nearly a decade since My New Red Shoes first began providing homeless and low-income children in the San Francisco Bay area with new shoes, new clothing and a new attitude toward school. This year, with the help of Portland Launch Director Kim Marshall, and seven partnering agencies, My New Red Shoes made a huge stride forward in Portland as part of their Clothing for Confidence program. Tualatin Valley’s TVFR Firehouse 53 hosted Portland’s first “Pack 4 Pride” event to pack all 491 bags.
“Launching in Portland took a lot of planning and organization, but with excitement and a clear business plan they did it!” Kim Marshall explained. “I was able to participate in a distribution and shopping trip. One group of 25 students had been in America for less than a year and had never shopped for new clothes before. It was overwhelming to watch.”
Participating school-aged children receive a new pair of shoes in a lovingly handmade bag, along with a handwritten note of encouragement for the school year, and a $50 gift card to Old Navy. For most, this is their first opportunity to shop for their own new clothing. The lack of adequate shoes and clothing is a major barrier to school attendance, performance and engagement.
“Words cannot explain the impact My New Red Shoes has had on our recipients and parents. Most of the students will barely take off their new clothes--even to wash!” wrote Jill de Mercado, who works for partnering agency Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO).
Another IRCO partner, Uluf Hassan, wrote of one immigrant family’s overwhelming pride in seeing their seven children choose and pay for their own new clothing, then send them each to school with stylish and well-fitting shoes.
Dear Ms. Marshall,
“…You should know the confidence the M-- family's children walk with in school these days has impacted their attendance and a deeper level of involvement in their school. The oldest daughter is now a crossing guard, the middle son is talking about running track and the younger children are continuing the conversations about their dreams and goals with their parents…”
Letters and notes from children and agencies poured into Kim Marshall’s office, thanking My New Red Shoes for helping students overcome the uneasiness and shame of going to school in ill-fitting and worn-out clothing. Just one pair of shoes and a modest new wardrobe are enough to increase a child’s school attendance, learning, and level of involvement.
Seven partnering agencies are helping to identify students and families in need. This year’s foundational partners included Portland Public Schools Migrant Education Program, Impact NW, SUN and SHINE Schools, the Good Neighbor Center and Family Shelter in Tigard, the Community Action Family Shelter in Hillsboro, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), and Campfire NW.
My New Red Shoes national founder and board president, Heather Hopkins, remembers her own mother’s stories of childhood poverty and the shame she experienced on the first day of school. He mom’s story opened her eyes to the school kids around her. She always knew she wanted to take the model across the country. The national office is going into its tenth year having served over 28,000 children, and plans to serve 7,500 students in 2015.
After hitting the projected goal to launch with 500 students in Portland this year, Kim Marshall looks forward to partnering with more schools, shelters, transitional housing and non-profits in the coming year, saying, “The need is here in Portland and My New Red Shoes is meeting it.”