H.E.A.R.T. Director of Personnel Gloria Garner hands a Northside Elementary fourth-grader a new pair of athletic shoes Tuesday. Over the past six years the organization has distributed more than 2,300 pairs of shoes to Dougherty County’s elementary school students.(Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)
ALBANY — Some Dougherty County School students were all smiles this week as Shoes From The H.E.A.R.T (Hands Extended Across Reaching Together) distributed 400 pair of new athletic shoes to less fortunate students at Jackson Heights, Turner, Alice Coachman and Northside elementary schools just in time for Christmas.
H.E.A.R.T. CEO Anne Johnson Milledge said she began the organization in 2009 after she saw a student who was using a trash bag to hold his sneakers together. “Every child needs a pair of shoes so this was an easy way to reach all of the kids in need,” Milledge said. “Shoes from the HEART provides shoes for K-5th Grade children to promote physical activity, participation in athletic programs, and personal development (self-esteem, confidence).”
The children were selected by their respective school administrators and seemed very happy with the gifts.
“Yes indeed, all the children were happy,” H.E.A.R.T Director of Personnel Gloria Garner said Tuesday. “We were at Jackson Heights and we had 15 kids extra show up because there were no shoes for them. We’ll get them their shoes. We had a donor to help us acquire 100 pairs of shoes which we will be distributing in January.”
Milledge said the initiative goes beyond just a new pair of shoes.
“We don’t just provide a pair of shoes for the children, we participate in their success. We partner with the school system by hosting or linking with other organizations in mentoring our children through seminar and workshops,” she said. “We provide motivational speaking, support Career Days, Read Across America, sit on the School-based Health Care Advisory Board, direct Youth Summits, Back-to-School Expos and the list goes on and on. We want to deter gang participation, violence and juvenile delinquency by instilling in the younger generation core values: such as, honesty, integrity and pride.”
Under Armour joined the organization to offer a discounted rate for the shoes, whose purchase was funded by Procter & Gamble, several local churches and individual donations.
In the past six years, the group has distributed more than 2,300 pairs of shoes to the county’s elementary school students.