To some local children, new school sneakers might be part of just another shopping trip. For many children, though, the back-to-school experience can be a difficult one.
Team members Laura Weaver and Cori Steiner are co-chairs of the Willow Valley Communities Outreach Committee, a joint resident and team member initiative focused on Lancaster County’s children in need. “To the family that flees domestic violence in the middle of the night with just the clothes on their back,” says Laura, “giving them a new pair of sneakers and socks is like handing the kids a pot of gold.”
Willow Valley’s Sneakers for School Project donates brand new sneakers to homeless children in Lancaster to help them feel special for that first day of school and start the year off right.
At Carter and MacRae Elementary School, Willow Valley Communities’ residents and team members were joined by the Homeless Student Project Committee Members and a representative from Shoe Carnival, Inc. to distribute 500 pairs of brand new sneakers for children facing adversity in the Lancaster area. The volunteers’ work was made much easier thanks to the many helping hands of the children of the School District of Lancaster staff.
This is the fourth year the Willow Valley Communities Outreach Committee has participated in the Sneakers for School Project. Since its beginning, the group has raised $50,115 and donated 1,800 pairs of sneakers and socks to the Lancaster Homeless Student Project, Lancaster County Children and Youth, Domestic Violence of Lancaster, Milagro House, and Deb’s House. “It’s a very humbling and overwhelming experience,” continues Laura. “I never realized how many children in Lancaster County may go back to school with no new sneakers.” She explains, “These kids didn’t have sneakers for gym class, or if they did some had a huge hole in the bottom of the shoes.”
Due to the generosity inspired by the Sneakers for Schools project, the Community Outreach group was also able to fund a special playroom renovation for Milagro House, an organization committed to providing education, housing, and counseling for women and their children experiencing homelessness. Cori and Laura recruited resident volunteers, including Lakes Wood Shop members, to help them renovate the playroom which had not been upgraded in
The group painted, built new shelves and a toy cabinet, cleaned toys, and purchased a rocking chair, bean bag chairs, carpet squares, and toys. The new chalkboard wall they created has already been a big hit.
Ryan Hardy, Willow Valley’s audio visual technician who participated in the volunteer renovation, was touched by the project. “When I grew up, my parents provided us with what we needed, and we didn’t think twice about having toys to play with, a roof over our head, and meals on the table,” says Ryan. “Being able to help provide a place to play and have some fun for the kids at Milagro House, and being able to work with the team of people that took on this task, was very special.” There is legacy in the generosity of Willow Valley’s residents and team members as they demonstrate their care and love for our community at large. The gifts and efforts will have a lasting impact on those who benefit for years to come.