Emporia's Grace United Methodist Church will be continuing its mission of providing “Kicks 4 Kids” to local students this year, structuring the event to be more of a grab-and-go style giveaway in light of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. 

“It will be our third year of doing this for Emporia schools,” said Grace UMC Pastor Brenda Ulrich. “We usually work with the district to make sure we can connect with kids during the school year. With this year having the pandemic and with more people being out of work — not to mention nobody really knowing what classes may look like this year — we decided to do things differently and give the shoes away ahead of time.”

The giveaway, set to run from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. July 25 in the church’s east parking lot at 2 Neosho St., will allow parents and their Pre-K through 12th grade students to simply drive in and pick up their orders without the risk of face-to-face exposure.

The orders themselves can be placed in several ways, and are not limited to individuals with a particular financial situation or need. Parents must fill out a shoe request form — made available inside the Grace Little Pantry at the front of the church, online at the Grace Church Facebook page or by calling 342-2240 — by July 13. Needed information includes the parent name, student(s) first name, the grade the student will be entering for 2020-21, their school, and, of course shoe size, whether it be for boys, girls, men or women. Requests can be submitted by placing them in the Little Pantry’s mailbox, calling the church or emailing the form to emporiagraceumc@sbcglobal.net.

“We’re not really needing any more money or volunteers, but what we are needing is plenty of kids to fill the shoes,” Ulrich said, referring to the almost $15,000 in funds set aside for the project over the last few years. “We’d like to use up as much of the money as possible.”

For Ulrich and her fellow church staff, the event is about much more than providing community members with a nice, new pair of shoes. Instead, it’s mostly about improving the learning and social experience for students who may not be as privileged as their peers.

“One of the things I’ve learned from attending a few conferences, is that kids with worn out shoes or close may not learn as well as other students,” Ulrich said. “Now, that can be for a lot of reasons, but not having things like well-fitting clothes can definitely be a distraction and a burden on the mind. We want kids to be able to learn to the best of their ability. Another thing is the social aspect. Kids want to fit in. They don’t want to be singled out or known as the kid that doesn’t have the cool stuff or other nice things. I figure if we can help a kid raise their self esteem simply by giving them a new pair of shoes, that’s definitely something we want to keep doing.”

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