Friday, August 23, 2019

Shoes for Every Child


Happy faces on the big day, when every fifth grade student at Manatee Elementary received new shoes. Photos by Jesus Calo

Happy faces on the big day, when every fifth grade student at Manatee Elementary received new shoes. Photos by Jesus Calo

The holidays arrived early at Manatee Elementary School, courtesy of East Naples Merchants Association’s shoe delivery to fifth grade students.

Instead of a big red sleigh guided by reindeer, Fuller Funeral Home lent their flower van to help deliver the boxes of shoes. East Naples Merchants Association (ENMA) President Sandra Simmons, Vice President Tom Drummond, along with members Tim Miller, Maribel Slabaugh and Jim Oliver, came through to facilitate the delivery.

ENMA also provided lunch, from association member Baci Pizza & Ristorante; enough six-foot-long Italian and American sandwiches, garlic knots and tossed salad to feed 110 students, faculty, and administrative staff.

County Commissioner Donna Fiala greets students.

County Commissioner Donna Fiala greets students.

Principal, Dr. Laurie Mearsheimer, who just marked her first year at the school, was appreciative of the efforts of the East Naples community for her students. “It is during the holiday season when we see the students light up from the generosity of our community members,” Dr. Mearsheimer stated.

ENMA purchased new tennis shoes for 94 fifth-grade students. Manatee Elementary teachers and administration worked closely with ENMA to get the kids’ shoe sizes coordinated in the months prior.

Front row: Dr. Laurie Mearsheimer, Maribel Slabaugh and Jim Oliver. Back row: Tim Miller, Tom Drummond and Sandra Simmons.

Front row: Dr. Laurie Mearsheimer, Maribel Slabaugh and Jim Oliver. Back row: Tim Miller, Tom Drummond and Sandra Simmons.

While the project was executed perfectly, there were unforeseen problems before the big day. One issue presented by the distributor was that the shoes were pre-packed in boxes without guaranteeing the shoe size. ENMA could not order a case that consisted of only one size in the quantity needed. To add to the mix, the distributor advised that some sizes would vary by style. This risked guaranteeing all students would receive a pair of shoes that fit.

“For example, a case could contain a range of one pair size 13, one pair 12½, two pairs of 12, and so on down to size 10,” ENMA President Simmons recounted. “We would have to order 35 cases of that size range to try and fit every stu- dent, which would be costly. So we came up with a solution that was within our budget for this project.”

Everyone pitched in to unload the boxes of shoes.

Everyone pitched in to unload the boxes of shoes.

Volunteers sourced available inventory from a Miami distributor through the Rotary Club of Naples Bay and purchased additional shoes locally. Through the club, ENMA was able to buy the shoes at wholesale prices, and stay within budget.

The shoes were delivered in unwrapped boxes, allowing the kids try them on for a proper fit. Manatee Elementary received an abundant number of shoes, extras will be stocked in a “shoe closet.” When teachers recognize a child in need from any grade, a pair can be provided.

ENMA purchased new tennis shoes for 94 fifth-grade students.

ENMA purchased new tennis shoes for 94 fifth-grade students.

Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala was present to wish the fifth graders a happy holiday season. This project was almost a yearlong process in planning. Fiala helped ENMA’s fundraising efforts and will be giving an annual update on East Naples in January.

This is an ongoing project. During the school year, Manatee Elementary School can notify ENMA if they are running low on shoes, and the association will work to restock the needed sizes.

For more information about how you can contribute or become an ENMA member, visit www.eastnaplesmerchantsassoc.com.

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