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Soles for the soul Written and designed by Cayley Ho


Acknowledgements I would like to thank Becca Moos and all of the staff members at My New Red Shoes for showing me the importance of a new pair of shoes. Without their help, the creation of this book would not have been possible. Special thanks to everyone who has been involved with My New Red Shoes. Your support is priceless.


Table of Contents

Foreword Introduction Chapter One Chapter two Chapter three Conclusion Works Cited

Page 6 Page 8 Page 10 Page 14 Page 18 Page 22 Page 27


Foreword


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ears before I had even heard of My New Red Shoes, I was pressured into joining Début: Fashion and Arts Club by my friends who founded it in my freshman year. Over the years, we have not only worked on our internal operations but we have reached out to other clubs and to the community. Début has collaborated on projects and activities with these other groups and businesses to raise awareness about each of our organizations. When I was first informed that Début wanted to collaborate with and support My New Red Shoes, I have to admit, I was skeptical. As the Secretary-Treasurer of the club, I questioned our ability to help at all. How could we donate to an organization when we hardly have enough funds to run our own club? My concerns were met with the response: Google them. So I did. I was impressed with their adaptability and amazed by their mission. I wanted to know more about My New Red Shoes and the people who were involved. On my first visit to their location in Redwood City, I definitely did not find what I thought I would find. It was much smaller and quieter than I thought it would be. But I was genuinely amazed that such a small group of people could manage such a significant operation and reach out to so many people, no matter their economic background. My interviews with the staff members and volunteers at My New Red Shoes provided valuable insight to each of their perspectives, as well as the children’s point of view, and truly validates the effect that My New Red Shoes has on the community. In my book, not only did I want to convey the importance of My New Red Shoes’ mission, but I also wanted to show the importance of each and every person who has ever been involved with the program. I wanted to present the factual evidence to demonstrate just how much of a difference My New Red Shoes has made and their potential to do even more. Before I began this project, I did not understand just how much need there is in our community, even in the relatively affluent Bay Area. I learned about conducting interviews and research and in the process, I uncovered so much more about the issue of poverty and how children are affected by it. Throughout the process of creating this book, I developed my interviewing, researching, and writing skills and extended my knowledge on a commonly overlooked issue in our community. Through this book, I hope to raise awareness about the repercussions of poverty on children in school and how crucial My New Red Shoes is in combating those consequences.

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Introduction

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ou probably pick out your own clothes. Maybe you go to the mall occasionally and buy that outfit that looks absolutely stunning on the mannequin, or maybe you just happened to find your older brother’s hoodie that is much too big for you but you don’t care because it’s comfortable. Or maybe your older sister is in college now and doesn’t wear half the stuff in her closet, so you help yourself to whatever is inside. You might find something that will be your favorite piece of clothing for

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years or you might find something that makes you question if your sister was under the influence of questionable substances when it was purchased. Whatever you decide to wear, the most critical part is that you get to decide. What if you didn’t get a choice in what you wore? What if your family can’t afford new clothing so you only get hand-medowns from your older siblings? What if you’re a third grade boy starting at a new school and your only sibling is your older sister and

she just outgrew her sparkly, pink, undeniably girly shoes?(Moos). For most people, the first day of school can be stressful, and first impressions are crucial. For that boy in the third grade with the sparkly pink shoes, his sister’s shoes no longer act as just a barrier between his feet and the ground, but a hurdle between himself and potential new friends. This boy is only one of the thousands of low-income and homeless students whose families are unable to afford new clothes and shoes for school. From 2000


to 2009, data has shown that household poverty rates have risen across the Bay Area (Soursourian). The increase in poverty translates to an increasingly difficult struggle for families to provide for their basic needs, let alone new shoes and clothing for children. This is where My New Red Shoes comes in. Situated in the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits in Redwood Shores, they are an organization that serves lowincome and homeless families in the Bay Area. With the support of the community and volunteers, the staff at My New Red Shoes collect thousands of shoes to be given out as gifts at the end of summer, just before the first day of school. Wrapped up in a hand sewn bag tied up by a shoelace, a pair of shoes is accompanied by a $50 gift

card to a clothing retailer, a school supply, and a personal note of encouragement for the receiver of the gift bag (Moos). The service that My New Red Shoes provides may

a difference in his life. Since their humble beginnings out of a garage in 2006, My New Red Shoes has grown exponentially each year. From serving 354 children to 6,067 in 2013, they have impacted thousands of lives. They aim to provide 100% of children living in shelters in the Bay Area with the opportunity to start school feeling ready to learn and instill a sense of confidence in them through school appropriate shoes and clothing (Three Year Plan). In providing new shoes and clothing for low-income and homeless students, My New Red Shoes provides a service that is essential for these children, their families, and the community, impacting the children positively for the rest of their lives.

Why are they spending money on new clothing instead of more important things like food and shelter? seem ridiculous at first, begging the question: why are they spending money on new clothes instead of more important things like food or shelter? Even though new clothing and shoes may not be at the top of a homeless family’s list of priorities, there is no denying that for the boy wearing his sister’s old shoes, a new pair of shoes and a new outfit he chooses for himself will make

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Chapter one: Take a Walk in My New Red Shoes

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eather Hopkins, founder of My New Red Shoes, was inspired by her mother’s story. Growing up as a daughter of two teen parents, her childhood was difficult because her family did not have a lot of money. Unable to afford new clothes, her clothes were always too big, too small, had holes, or just looked used and worn. Heather’s mom dreaded going to school each day because she would never have anything new or special to wear. She told Heather that if someone had dropped off a

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new outfit on her doorstep for the first day of school, she would have remembered that gesture for the rest of her life (Moos). Her mother’s experience of being unhappy with her clothes as a child motivated Heather to create an organization that would provide children who feel the way her mother felt about her clothes with the opportunity to feel confident at school the way Heather’s mother never did. It just so happened that Heather had worn red shoes on her own first day of school, inspiring the name My New

Red Shoes (Keefe). Before it became the extensive organization it is today, My New Red Shoes sprouted out of Heather’s garage in Menlo Park in the summer of 2006. That season, Heather, with the help of her friends, provided over 350 children in her neighborhood with new shoes and clothing. Seeing the huge demand for new shoes and clothing for children in her community and the enthusiasm the community held for what she was doing drove Heather to continue in her mission.


Last summer, My New Red Shoes served 6,067 children, totaling to over 21,000 children since their first season. Having expanded from Heather’s small neighborhood, My New Red Shoes now serves children in all nine counties in the Bay Area (Moos). Obviously, this task requires a tremendous amount of effort. My New Red Shoes must evolve to serve and accommodate a growth of roughly 40% more children each year (Keefe). They must rely heavily on the support of the community, both financially and physically. In addition to monetary donations, My New Red Shoes attracts thousands of volunteers who wish to help this cause (“What We Do”). Even with the tremendous efforts of their incredible volunteer base, My New Red Shoes is still unable to reach all of the children that they wish to. If they could, My New Red Shoes would ensure that every child everywhere has a

new pair of shoes and a new set of clothing for their first day back at school. Unfortunately, this is not the case, at least not right now. According to the Homelessness Research Institute, 20 out of every 10,000 people in the general population are homeless. Composing 38% of the homeless population are families with children, amounting to approximately 239,403 people out of 77,157 households in America. The children in families such as

these are the ones at which My New Red Shoes targets their attention. Despite the daunting numbers of the homeless and impoverished population, the staff at My New Red Shoes remain resolute. It is a future goal of My New Red Shoes broaden their reach and be able to serve any child, anywhere. Echoed by the desire of the community to see them succeed, My New Red Shoes aspires to bring out a sense of confidence and an eagerness to learn in the children they serve.

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Chapter two: The value of a Shopportunity

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very summer before school starts, My New Red Shoes distributes the gift bags to the children. Within seconds of receiving their bags personalized to their preferences, the children excitedly open their gift bags and immediately put on their new shoes. The delight the children feel is apparent on their faces, and sometimes, even in their actions. Last summer, a boy now known to the staff at My New Red Shoes as Fire Feet received a pair of shoes with flames painted onto them in

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his gift bag. Convinced he could run faster in his new pair of flame shoes, this five year old boy would not stop running laps around the room, all the while calling out to everyone, “Watch me! Watch me run!� (Moos). Like Fire Feet, the children who receive these gifts are so appreciative that some of them will even go to bed in their new shoes. It is irrefutable that when you like your clothes and you feel comfortable in what you are wearing, you will feel more

confident and more self-assured. For many of the children who receive a gift bag from My New Red Shoes, it is their first time receiving new items of clothing in their lives. There are some who claim that appearances do not matter and that a person will be appreciated for who they are on the inside. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. It is not rare for a person’s inner character to be buried deep, hidden by an unconventionally appealing exterior. While a surplus of clothing will cover up a person


in the literal sense, a lack of decent clothing can cloak their image, preventing their true identity from being seen. Even though people will claim that they are not shallow, that they will not judge a book based on its cover, the truth is that a book cover is an indicator of what the book contains. Whether it is a person’s impression of another, or one’s perception of themselves, a person’s clothing does affect the way they function in society. The objective that My New Red Shoes aims to meet is to enable all children to feel comfortable and confident in themselves so they can participate in society. New clothing is one of the factors that can contribute to a child’s quality of education. Besides obtaining an education, one of the main reasons that many people attend school is to spend time with their friends. However, when friends are taken out of the equation, school becomes unappealing. Children whose families cannot afford new clothing

often find it difficult to make friends because they do not fit in and are teased because of their clothes. My New Red Shoes offers these children a chance to step out of the stigma set by social class boundaries and make friends. In other cases, some of these children feel so ashamed of

“Watch me! Watch me run!” their clothing that they will refuse to draw attention to themselves, whether that means detaching themselves from others or refusing to engage in classroom activities. In an article in the Los Angeles Times, experts claim that inadequate clothing is one reason that leads students to have academic problems and skip school. Not only is quality

of education diminished because of poor clothing, but the existence presence of education itself as well (Banda). In Santa Clara, a study of students who were homeless showed that they had more absences from school compared to other students. 21% of those students named lack of appropriate clothing as their primary reason for not attending school (Moos). This data suggests that if the 21% of children missing school because of their clothing were to be given a new set of clothing, they would attend school more frequently and Appropriate clothing not only refers to clothing that is visually appealing but also concerns clothing that is suitable for the weather and various activities. The lack of proper clothing and shoes leaves children susceptible to disease and injury (Sauerwein). Students wearing T-shirts in the winter or shoes full of holes in the rain clearly cannot put their entire focus into their education. In 15


addition, a child running around on the playground in flip flops is much more likely to trip and fall than the child running in more athletic shoes. While illness and injuries can be obtained from a lack of adequate clothing, opportunities do not come as easy. Without a pair of sneakers, joining the basketball team, the track team, or other sports and activities a child might be interested in becomes an impossibility. Keeping this in mind, My New Red Shoes provides shoes suitable for the children’s needs, making sure that all the shoes that they give out are athletic and reliable. My New Red Shoes’ contribution to the community may seem to be limited by solely a pair of shoes and a gift card, but their impact is truly immeasurable. Not only do they make an impression on the lives of these children, but they also inspireW them to make a difference in the lives of other children in similar situations. 16

Charis, a girl who had previously received a gift bag, is just one of the many who were excited by what My New Red Shoes was doing. The gift she received made such an impact on her life that she wanted to help My New Red Shoes do the same for others. However, she lived in San Francisco and could not travel to Redwood City to physically volunteer, and she was unable to donate money or shoes.

Despite her circumstances, Charis still wanted to find a way to help. She reached out to the staff at My New Red Shoes and they sent her a stack of blank cards in the mail. Having been one of the recipients of the cards, she knew what she would have liked to see on the cards. Coupled with her artistic talent, Charis created some amazing pieces of artwork on the cards to be sent out to other children (Moos). Some of her cards are still framed and on display on a wall in the volunteer area of My New Red Shoes. Just like Charis’ cards, the impact that a new set of clothing can make is on display for all to see. Whether that impact lasts for just a moment or spans generations, like it has with Heather’s mother, it is undeniable that new shoes and clothing will make a difference in these children’s lives, if only for a second.


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Chapter three: In step with the community

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y New Red Shoes has touched the lives of many, invigorating those who see the value in their mission to take action. But no one understands the importance of My New Red Shoes more than those who have actually been in the shoes of the children that My New Red Shoes serve. As a child of about twelve, Sheila Springs was briefly homeless. She recalled “what it felt like when people looked at you and knew you were homeless. You didn’t have the best outfit on maybe, you

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had some worn out shoes...I didn’t like feeling like I was being looked down upon.” As the past president of the El Camino Chapter of International Association of Administrative Professionals, Sheila Springs contributed to the decision of choosing My New Red Shoes as an organization that the chapter wanted to support. Her personal experiences as a child allowed her to relate to the children and recognize the value of My New Red Shoes. Even those who have not had

experiences similar to these children’s, Sheila Springs’, Heather’s mother’s can still appreciate their intentions and the impact they make on the community. The impression My New Red Shoes makes is visibly definite through the volunteer process and the time, money, and effort that is invested is clearly translated into results. The volunteer process varies from inventorying and sorting shoes, to organizing supplies, to sewing gift bags, to drawing “First Day” encouragement cards. All the while,


volunteers can see their work develop into a concrete product that will make a difference in someone else’s life. Not only does the over arching philanthropic goal encourage many people to volunteer at My New Red Shoes, but the visibility of the process and the tangible products of their efforts also attracts many volunteers. While My New Red Shoes is appealing because of their transparency, there are still many elements of the organization that the general public does not see. Even though there is so much work that is done at the surface, even more is done at a deeper level. The staff at My New Red Shoes is constantly striving to make the organization more efficient so they can better serve the children. From the large projects to the tiny details, they continually sweep through their system, improving on any aspects that they feel need work. Improvement can mean changing a detail as small as the gift bags that the shoes are packaged in. Hand sewn by volunteers, the bags are filled with the children’s gifts and then tied up with a shoelace. Currently, the staff are looking 19


to redesign the bags, adding a drawstring to make the bags more functional. Small features such as this are all components in formulating an organization that benefits the community to their greatest extent. The gift bags are not the only thing at My New Red Shoes that is upgrading; the entire organization must evolve rapidly and adapt to the needs of the community in order to provide their service effectively. In order to accomplish this, they consider feedback from evaluation surveys to identify and solve issues. Changing their operations is one of the ways My New Red Shoes resolves problems. In the past, they would take requests for new clothing and shoes, such as “blue jeans and a black sweater”, and then find a donor who could provide the requested blue jeans and black sweater. However, a boy of fifteen’s idea

of blue jeans and a black sweater might be very different from a 45 year old woman’s idea of blue jeans and a black sweater. Thus, My New Red Shoes changed the way they operate, providing the children with a $50 gift card to a clothing retailer so they can buy the clothing of their choice. Through making changes such as this, My New Red Shoes develops steadily, able to serve more children, more effectively.

In increasing the effectiveness of their internal programs, their external programs are affected positively as well. My New Red Shoes works with

partner agencies and shelters to distribute the shoes and clothing to the children. Recently, My New Red Shoes has received so much support from their vast volunteer base that at times, there won’t be any more work to be done on site. This year, they even want to send the corporate volunteer groups to work at the other agencies so they can take advantage of their efforts. My New Red Shoes makes a magnificent impact on the community, capable of reaching out to volunteers of all backgrounds and provoking them to take action. Ever changing and growing, they aim to provide the best service they possibly can. The extensive support that the community is exceptionally eager to contribute confirms that My New Red Shoes is an asset to the community and that the community, in turn, is essential to My New Red Shoes.


Conclusion

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y New Red Shoes truly makes a lasting impact on the children they serve and provides a significant contribution to the community. It is almost unbelievable just how much My New Red Shoes has grown. Even in the beginning, just only eight years ago, My New Red Shoes was already making a difference. The staff at the time consisted solely of Heather and a few of her friends. Now, My New Red Shoes has developed into an organization with a solid foundation composed

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of thousands of volunteers. Some of these volunteers feel that this organization is so important that they will travel to Redwood City, where My New Red Shoes is located, from cities as far as Sacramento to offer their assistance. My New Red Shoes has influenced the community greatly, showing everyone the importance of their mission. They have brought all types of people from various backgrounds together to work for a cause that they all believe in. The extent of My New

Red Shoes is unimaginable. At the moment, My New Red Shoes is serving all nine counties in the Bay Area. However, location is not the only factor by which the effect of My New Red Shoes can be measured. The children that they serve are obviously affected as well. In addition to the pleasure of receiving new shoes, possibly for the first time, some of these children also experience a change in attitude or perspective that can change their lives. Think back to the third


grade boy in his sister’s sparkly pink shoes. He might have been afraid to raise his hand in class because he didn’t want people to notice his shoes. Or he might have even been teased for his shoes, no matter how invisible he tried to be. My New Red Shoes wants to put an end to situations such as these, where students cannot engage themselves in their education because of their clothing. Though some may argue that outside appearances should not matter, in today’s society, a person’s appearance on the outside is their presentation of themselves to others, and to themselves. The boy wearing his sister’s old, pink shoes would certainly feel better about his appearance if he had new sneakers of his own. With a newfound sense of confidence and without his sister’s shoes to hold him back, maybe he will feel more enthusiastic about going to school and getting an education. This is what My New Red Shoes aspires 24

to accomplish through their gift bags. My New Red Shoes also hopes that their gift to these children will help them build the self-assurance one needs to succeed in society. Charis, the girl who was inspired to give back after she received a bag of her own, now has an internship at Cisco. Although My New Red Shoes was not the only factor that led Charis to where she is now and to becoming the person she is today, a portion of the responsibility must be allocated to them. No matter how small, My New Red Shoes has made a difference in Charis’ life, so much so that she still keeps in touch with the staff to this day. Eight summers ago, Heather Hopkins founded My New Red Shoes in the hopes of inspiring change within the community and within the children themselves. Eight summers later, My New Red Shoes has rapidly matured into an organization that spans not only

the local community, but extends throughout the Bay Area, expanding from serving hundreds of children to serving thousands. My New Red Shoes has prospects that the future will hold the further growth of the organization and dreams that their scope will eventually broaden to include all those who cannot afford new shoes and clothing for school. In the words of Brittani Keefe, the Agency Services Manager, “that’s our mission: to get shoes on kids’ feet.” A gift so seemingly small and materialistic as a new pair of shoes and the opportunity to buy new clothes for the first day of school may not appear to be the most important thing for children who live in poverty or are homeless. However, this service provided by My New Red Shoes does make a significant impact. Their ability to inspire, motivate, and produce overall change makes My New Red Shoes a fundamental organization to all those involved.


“That’s our mission: To get shoes on kids’ feet.” -Brittani Keefe, Agency Services Manager


Works Cited Banda, Wezzie. “Ragged Clothing, Serious Illness: Hallmarks of Vicious Poverty.” World Vision. World Vision Inc., 5 Sept. 2012. Web. 28 Jan. 2014. “Becca Moos.” Personal interview. 12 Feb. 2014. “Brittani Keefe.” Personal interview. 26 Feb. 2014. Sauerwein, Kristina, and Allison Cohen. “Tattered Clothes of Poverty Prove Costly in Classroom.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 20 Feb. 2000. Web. 28 Jan. 2014. “Sheila Springs.” Personal interview. 22 Feb. 2014. Soursourian, Matthew. “Community Development Research Brief: Suburbanization of Poverty in the Bay Area.” Federal Reserve Bank San Francisco. Federal Reserve Bank San Francisco, Jan. 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2014. “Three Year Plan 2011-2014.” My New Red Shoes. N.p., 2011. Web. 28 Jan. 2014. “What We Do - Mynewredshoes.” Mynewredshoes. N.p., 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.

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Soles for the Soul

Cayley is a Junior in high school and divides her day between Los Altos High School and Freestyle Academy. She is also the assistant sound designer in Broken Box Theatre Company and a board member of DÊbut: Fashion and Arts Club. Outside of school, Cayley spends much of her time in the pool, as she is on the school’s water polo as well as the swim team. She also enjoys digital photography and marathoning movies and television shows. Though she is unsure of which career is right for her, she hopes that Freestyle will guide her and help her find her true calling.

Soles for the soul Written and designed by Cayley Ho

Cayley Ho

Cayley ho