A group of Hernando businesspeople and community members is joining together to bring a little sunshine to the lives of Tampa Bay foster children–or is that ‘shoe’shine?!
In honor of May’s National Foster Care Month, a group of area businesses is ‘stepping up’ in support of Kids Central LLC–an organization with a mission to protect children, support families, and engage communities in Hernando and beyond–to Step Up for Foster Kids. As a part of this special campaign, they are conducting a wide scale community shoe drive for foster care children in their service area.
“We asked them what their immediate need items were, and Shawanna (Felton, community facilitator at Kids Central) told us: Shoes!” said Atlanta McDonald, community facilitator of Kids Central. “So Summit Adventure Park (in Spring Hill) is hosting a shoe drive.”
And according to Felton, the need is indeed great.
“Kids Central in partnership with Youth and Family Alternatives is currently serving over 200 children in Hernando county,” she said. “Kids Central is grateful for the partnership with Summit Adventure Park and their amazing outreach to the Hernando community to provide new shoes for children in care. With the support of community members like Summit Adventure Park and their partners in Hernando County, Kids Central is ensuring every child in care has their needs covered.
“Often children come in to care with ill-fitting shoes and there are some times where a child has no shoes at all. Kids Central partners with local community partners to ensure every child’s needs are met including shoes.”
The shoe drive runs now through June 5 at Summit Adventure Park, 11160 Spring Hill Dr., Spring Hill. People who bring in clean, new or gently used shoes appropriate for kids up to age 16 can get a discount on a Summit pass.
“We have included some community parents, who wanted to pitch in when they heard about what Luke Jones (Summit owner) was doing!” said McDonald.
Summit is the host site for the drive, with project partners that include HITS106, T-Mobile, Gill Dawg, Shoe Plug, and Pampering Plumber.
“They have donated funds and we reached out to a locally owned shoe store in Spring Hill called Shoe Plug!” said McDonald. “We are purchasing shoes from this local business…who is also giving us a discount and donating both shoes and gift certificates!”
The beneficiary of this effort, Kids Central, Inc., is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose vision is “to be the most effective and recognizable lead agency for community-based care, providing child-centered practices that strengthen families and help create, support and maintain a safe environment for children.”
“As the lead community-based care organization, the community’s support and commitment are integral to Kids Central’s mission,” reads an organization mission statement. “To build a child-centered community-based system of care, Kids Central assesses any gaps in available services, evaluates the needs of the community and harnesses its strengths. Kids Central also provides child abuse prevention programming and community education.”
“Giving to Kids Central means making an investment in the wellbeing of our community,” the statement read. “Your donation allows us to provide additional resources to vulnerable children and families – right here in Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter Counties.”
Kids Central counts shoe donations as a ‘step’ in the right direction.
“Shoes are a source of pride for children and often they don’t have access to new shoes in their sizes. The need for shoes is one of our consistent needs. The need can range from toddler shoes to adult sizes, from sneakers to school shoes,” said Felton. “Oftentimes, as parents and caregivers know, children grow out of shoe sizes quite quickly. We also try to keep in mind that often children are given a pair of shoes that they didn’t pick out, sometimes hand-me-downs as well. The joy on a child’s face of selecting their favorite shoe, the size they need, and being able to take them home cannot be beaten.”
Luke Jones, owner of Summit Adventure Park and a foster parent himself, is pleased to support this effort; with him and several Step Up sponsors also giving cash donations to help.
“We love to do these kinds of events to help the community,” said Jones. “And we want to support the kids.”
After hearing about the effort on HITS106, Jones–who along with his wife has fostered babies and small children–became determined to help.
“It’s personal to me to help these kids,” he said.
“We know we have a great gathering of youth and this is not only an opportunity to help our community.. but teach all the young people who hang out there what community support looks like!” she said. “We want this event to be the best it can be!”