By Brittany Anderson
KYLE — With the 2020 census showing that 9.6% of Hays County residents are living in poverty, one local organization aims to combat the effects of this by providing underserved children in the county with a free pair of shoes.
Hays Cares aims to inspire hope by providing resources, education and economic opportunities for underserved children and families in the county. For the past several years, they have held their Shoes of Hope event, providing school-aged students with a free pair of shoes in preparation for the new school year.
Hundreds of families benefited from the Hays Cares Shoes of Hope event on July 30, held at the Lehman High School gym. Three-hundred children received a free pair of shoes, socks and slide sandals.
Along with the socks and shoes, backpacks with school supplies were provided. The San Marcos Police Department also provided sausage wraps and the chance for kids to talk with first responders and take pictures with a squad car and rescue vehicle, along with a Kyle Fire Department fire engine.
Hays Cares partners with Samaritan’s Feet to provide the shoes, and local donations from residents are also accepted. Hays Cares also partnered with and has received support from local organizations such as Hays Latinos United and the Kyle Buda Kiwanis Club.
Pastor James Jacobs, who has volunteered with Hays Cares and served the community through this event for five years now, said that in previous years, volunteers would wash the children’s feet before providing the socks and shoes. That has since gone away due to COVID, but the significance and message behind the event still stands.
Jacobs said that shoes are incredibly important for children, both physically and mentally. Not having the proper shoes can cause foot problems, and can take away from their ability to thrive in school.
Kyle Mayor Pro Tem Robert Rizo, who was volunteering, said that with the current state of the economy and prices rising across the board, this event helps provide some relief to families — a new pair of children’s shoes can oftentimes run upwards of $45, or more.
Although the event this past weekend was held in preparation for the new school year, Hays Cares provides the service throughout the year, as families are often in need around the holidays. Jacobs said that families do not need to meet a certain criteria to receive shoes, but that they just need to register in advance when they hold the shoe event. However, no one will get turned away, no matter the time of year.
If you are interested in donating to Hays Cares or would like more information on how to receive assistance, visit www.hayscares.org.