Giveaway helps students start school on right foot

Gianna Brandt, 8, and her mother, Krista Brandt of Hermitage, Pa, select new tennis shoes Monday.

HUBBARD — Wanting to help local families with the many expenses they face preparing their children for the start of the upcoming school year, members of Chestnut Ridge Church of God provide free tennis shoes to local children.

Church members volunteered their time Monday and Tuesday assisting children in finding shoes in a large room of the church.

Pastor Rob McFarland said he purchased 300 new pairs of shoes but was planning to get more.

“This is the best event we do the entire year. We originally thought we were only going to do this one year, but then we saw the need. We hear all the stories from the families so we just can’t stop doing this,” he said.

Shoes are given to children in kindergarten to 12th grade in the Hubbard, Brookfield, Liberty, Girard, Farrell, Sharon, West Middlesex and Hermitage schools.

“These are schools that are all adjacent and near the church. We guarantee a new pair of shoes to any child in any of these school districts,” McFarland said.

Heidi Evans of Hubbard has five daughters, four of whom are in school, and said the free shoes help her family financially.

“We are already buying all their school supplies so the free shoes help tremendously,” she said, noting her oldest child is in high school and the youngest is in preschool.

Addison Evans, 11, of Hubbard, selected a pair of grayish-blue KangaRoos shoes.

Krista Brandt of Hermitage, Pa. said she is not working right now, so to get free shoes for her three children is very helpful.

“They are excited to get the shoes,” she said.

Gianna Brandt, 8, said she was looking for pink-colored shoes that were also comfortable.

Barb Long of West Middlesex and Judy Radachy of Masury, church members, spent both days helping children find shoes.

“We handed out 150 shoes in the first hour,” Long said on Monday.

Both women said the church does the shoe giveaway as a community outreach service.

“Our pastor buys all the shoes and make sure these are shoes the children will want. He calls them cool shoes the children will like,” Radachy said.

She said donations are received from local businesses to help cover costs for the shoes. The church also holds fundraisers to raise money.

In addition, Payless Shoes helps the church with the bulk shoe purchases being sold at a discount.

McFarland said Payless Shoes will contact him when they are having a sale such as after Christmas at the beginning of the year.

“I get the call from them when the sales are on. All the local Payless stores know me when I walk in and help provide me with discounts,” he said.

Local teens also helped at the event as Gavin Gentile, 14, and Andre Dollman, 14, both of Sharon, Pa, helped stack the boxes on tables based on shoe sizes.

“We help get the shoes for them and collect the boxes to help keep the place looking organized,” Dollman said,

McFarland said the church keeps shoes through the end of the month for families who could not attend the two-day giveaway event.