SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) - Christmas came early for hundreds of kids in central Illinois through the Shoe Program.
Co-organizer Barbara Bolin said for 60 years, AT&T has been giving out shoes to children in need.
"It started in 1959, back then it was Illinois Bell Telephone Company. There was four stallers, installing phones on the pole, and they saw six little kids walking to school. They didn't have decent shoes," Bolin said. "They went back to the building and talked to the rest of the stallers and said, let's start giving money to get these kids to get some shoes."
What started as a donation of only six pairs turned into a donation of nearly 500 pairs of shoes.
"We all have so much, so we don't realize how other families don't have a lot," Bolin said. "We give shoes and socks both, because some of the kids don't even have socks."
About a decade ago, Scott Weitekamp, captain with the Springfield Fire Department, said the department started donating $1,000 to the cause for its 12 Days of Christmas Program.
"Once I saw this and saw how the kids reacted to their new shoes, new boots; I thought this would be a perfect program," Weitekamp said. "There's some kids I see that have had the same shoes on from last year."
Weitekamp said each year, this program gets bigger and bigger. He said he wants to encourage other businesses to donate and to allow more children to receive new shoes.