Just in time for the winter season, the annual Share the Spirit shoe drive kicked off at J & N Shoes, downtown Lamar this past Friday morning, October 26. About 160 youngsters in the Prowers County region including Springfield and Las Animas were measured for shoes and with the help of a dozen volunteers, selected a brand new pair of shoes for themselves.
“Every 15 minutes, we’re getting a wave of kids from the area,” said Karen Voepel, Vice President of Share the Spirit Foundation, the organization responsible for the Colorado shoe drive. Voepel said an identical shoe drive was also underway in Springfield, Illinois, where her sister, Tonya, is heading some of the foundation activities. Voepel said the lack of school on Friday altered the logistics of shoe distribution, as last year the schools brought in the students, but this year, it’s the parents and volunteers. “It’s a little disorganized, but we’re having fun with it and our aim is still being met,” she stated.
Voepel said the fundraiser earlier this October was a great help with twelve, $500 sponsors, as well as simple $10 donations from residents, the sale of tickets to the fundraiser and some unique auction items helped raise $27,000. “Someone donated their house in France for two weeks, we had beautiful crafted rugs donated from Scottsdale, Arizona which were auctioned off, and so many other great items,” she sadded.
The Share the Spirit Foundation, created in 2003, has far-reaching goals. Voepel said she’ll meet in November with her partner to lay out plans for 2013. “We’re heading back to South Dakota again next year. I’ll have 100 pair of shoes from J & N and Tonya will have 100 pairs from Illinois, and they’ll be distributed at the Cheyenne Indian reservation. We’re also considering Detroit, perhaps going back to New Orleans, and we’re also talking about doing something in Harlem. We’ll look at about six places and whittle them down to three goals for next year.”
Closer to home, Karen said she’s been talking with Lori Hammer, director of the Project HOPE Teen Center in Lamar, to host a dinner and Christmas party for the students just before the annual Parade of Lights on Friday, December 7. Voepel said the funding, obviously, is very important, but she wants residents to know that the Foundation wants to funnel those funds back into the community at every opportunity.
By Russ Baldwin
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