For a Greater Cause: New Shoes for Kids in Need
With so much noise in our daily lives, we tend to lose sight of what is truly important in the grand scheme of things.
The most treasured possession for some can be considered menial by others. Something we take for granted each day, like a simple pair of shoes, can make all the difference in someone’s life, especially children in need.
It seems obvious, but there is an overwhelming lack of resources for underprivileged youth across the country. Over 60% of kids, roughly 26,500 students, in Collier County public schools are designated economically needy – that’s over three times the number of seats inside of Germain Arena! Luckily for the Southwest Florida community, Jeanne Nealon is tackling this problem head-on.
Laces of Love is a non-profit organization that provides new shoes to low income and disadvantaged children in both Lee and Collier Counties, while educating the community about their needs. As Co-Founder and President, Jeanne is doing all that she can to find a solution to this issue. “It started when I took an 8th grade student of mine home, and he had been wearing some of the worst shoes I had ever seen! So I gave him a new pair, and noticed it made such a difference. Then I started looking at my migrant students and the ones living just above the poverty line, and really saw the need was so great.” With the help of a volunteer Board of Directors, including two additional Co-Founders, Susan Warren and Mary Myrmo, Jeanne was able to bring her cause to life, growing little by little each year.
In many schools, she is known simply as “The Shoe Lady” because she usually shows up pushing a rolling bin full of stylish, brand new sneakers. The kids light up at the sight of her, while patiently waiting to see what pair of shoes she may have for them. “We try to have an assortment of colors and styles for them to choose from, since it’s important for us to give them something that’ll boost their confidence,” Jeanne adds.
Now working out of two separate storage facilities, the team keeps thousands of shoes bagged up, labeled, and ready to be distributed throughout Lee and Collier counties. Julie McLeod, Board Member and volunteer, says, “It would be really great if someone could donate some warehouse space to us, but for now we will continue doing whatever we can, even if that means storing some shoes in our own homes!”
Over the years, Laces of Love has partnered with various organizations in Southwest Florida, including PACE Center for Girls, Dress for Success, Our Mother’s Home, Salvation Army, and the Red Cross, as well as all Collier and Lee County schools. In fact, over 125,000 children have received new shoes from Laces of Love since 2004! This isn’t something that happens overnight; Jeanne has dedicated countless hours to her cause, educating our community about the overwhelming need for support of underprivileged youth. Thanks to her passion and drive, she has started a movement that shows no signs of stopping.
You may now be wondering what you can do to make a difference. If you are a member of a community association, alumnae group, athletic team, church organization, sorority or fraternity, or have a few good friends and family you can gather together, then you’re ready to host your very own shoe party. Simply invite everyone to lunch, dinner, cocktails or any event, and ask that each person brings one or more pair of new sneakers for a child in need. All sizes are needed, especially sizes 1-6 for boys and girls. Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated. You can also request a guest speaker from Laces of Love to attend, who will help introduce the organization and share their story. Most importantly, don’t forget to contact Jeanne at 239-591-1172 to arrange a pick up for the shoes being donated! You will surely be contributing to a worthy cause.
For more information on making a donation to Laces of Love or participating in your own shoe party, feel free to reach out to Jeanne directly, or visit their website at LacesOfLove.org.
1976 BETHANY PLACE, NAPLES, FLORIDA 34109