Turner Elementary School Principal Gail Solomon talks to students in the schools lunch room with bags of shoes in the background. H.E.A.R.T. distributed 200 free pair of athletic shoes to needy students Friday and will distribute 300 more pair next week. In the past five years the group has provided more than 1,900 free pair of shoes to Dougherty County elementary students.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Some Dougherty County School students were all smiles Friday as 200 pair of new athletic shoes were distributed to kids at Jackson Heights and Turner elementary schools.
Shoes from The H.E.A.R.T. (Hands Extended Across Reaching Together) plans on distributing 300 more pair next week at Northside, Magnolia elementary schools and International Studies Charter School.
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)."
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, Sam's Club, Mount Zion Baptist Church, several other local churches and individual donations.
"The community has been very instrumental in making this distribution possible," Milledge said. "We want to share the good things going on in our community and the impact corporate America is having in helping our children succeed."
H.E.A.R.T has distributed more than 1,900 pair of shoes over the past five years.