Group gives away shoes with firefighters' help

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SPRINGFIELD- For nearly fifty years, a program called All Children Shall Have Shoes has provided shoes for central Illinois children who might not otherwise have them.

The program began in the 1960s, when a group of Illinois Bell technicians noticed a group of children in need.

“It was four installers that were installing a telephone one day and saw these kids walking to school and noticed they didn’t have hardly any shoes. They were worn out” said Barb Bolin, who co-chairs the program in the Springfield area. “They went back to their garage and said ‘Guys, let’s see if we can get some money together and let’s buy some shoes for those kids.’”

That first year, they gave away four pairs of shoes, Bolin said. In the years since, they’ve given away thousands more.

This week, at a shoe store in Springfield, volunteers with the program are giving away hundreds of shoes to children from the surrounding area who have been recommended by teachers and others, Bolin said.

“It’s wonderful to see the kids’ expressions on their faces when they get new shoes,” Bolin said. “It’s such a warm feeling that you’re doing something good for somebody else.”

This year, the program also received a $1,000 donation from the Springfield Firefighters Local 37, as part of the union’s annual 12 Days of Christmas donations.

“Every year, we do a program called the 12 Days of Christmas … raising money for kids and different organizations,” said Springfield Fire Captain Scott Weitekamp. “The money we raise, for twelve days of Christmas, we give some charity $1,000 each.”

On Monday, the firefighters were also on hand for the shoe giveaway, talking to children about fire safety and about firefighting.

“We get them out here, they put on gear, they get in front of the rig and take a picture,” Weitekamp said. “They enjoy it.”

Bolin said All Children Shall Have Shoes also has a fund set up at Sacred Heart Credit Union called "Pioneer Shoes" where individuals can donate.

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