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Courtesy photos by Joe Chestney

Kyah Rodgers, 9, and Kavion Rodgers, 7, look at the shoes available at Angel Feet Ministries. The outreach tries to meet the needs of area children by providing them with new sneakers in a color and style they like.

feet grow so much, he said. oldest one can wear her grandmother sneakers. while not all the styles and varieties of a store are in stock, the kids don mind.

have a lot of choices in my size, said 10 year old Kyle Rodgers. can get a pair I really like. sister, Kamya, 12, said she likes either pink or blue sneakers.

like coming here (to Angel Feet), she said, adding that her preferences are usually in stock.

In order to receive shoes, families must meet certain criteria. Children must be receiving medical assistance, be enrolled in the state CHIP health care program or be referred by a school or agency. As long as they meet the guidelines, families may register to bring children to be fitted for shoes every six months.

The program was started by Dee Martin Spallone after she heard the Rev. Dr. Joe Faulkner mention a shoe bank program at St. Paul United Methodist Church in State College during a sermon about 10 years ago. Martin Spallone visited the shoe bank with Faulkner wife, Barbara, as her host. Both Faulkners are now deceased, but the shoe bank in Centre County continues to thrive.

Faulkner had a dream for her area to start a shoe bank for children, Martin Spallone said.

Martin Spallone wanted the same opportunity for children in Blair County. Both women saw the need for children to have brand new shoes.

never liked the idea of hand me down shoes, Martin Spallone said. would say, need to fit in their own shoes with their own feet.’ she first learned about the project in State College, Martin Spallone was attending an Altoona church which was in transition and not prepared to take on the ministry.

After a while, she started attending Juniata United Methodist Church, 808 N. Fourth St., where she presented the idea to the outreach committee in May 2012.

The ministry was approved in 2012,
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and officially launched in April 2013. During the past four years, more than 3,500 pairs of shoes have been distributed to more than 1,600 children.

To accommodate the need for sneakers, the ministry has expanded from its initial crammed quarters in a basement foyer that includes a stairway. Shoe boxes were stacked along the outer walls and the room contained a table to register families and chairs to accommodate five or six people. The line of families started at the bottom of the steps and ended on the church lawn outside the door.

Eventually, JUMC Angel Feet expanded to the adjoining youth fellowship room, which was divided into a classroom and a space for Angel Feet to sort shoes on racks and store others in boxes along the wall separating it from the classroom. Youth fellowship moved to another area of the church.

Families interested in the program need to register in advance with Bill Ellick, chairman of the outreach program, by calling the church at 942 6065. Once Ellick has determined eligibility, he schedules an appointment for the family. (during busy times) on Saturdays, with other times set to accommodate families if necessary.

Although Ellick makes reminder calls to volunteers and families the night before their appointments, the families themselves make a point to make sure their children receive new shoes. He said families without vehicles will take the bus, get rides or walk.

December two years ago, a family walked in the snow to get there, he said. family, who had children in strollers, walked across the Eighth Street Bridge from the East End. Some parents really care. They want their kids to get shoes. the families arrive, parents are asked the sizes of shoes each child wears to help the volunteer get a starting point, but each child foot is also measured. The shoes are fitted to each child feet with a little bit of room for growth.

The child then tells the volunteer what color he or she likes.

children tell us their preferences, said Donna Chestney, a volunteer with the program for five years. try to please. return, Chestney said she receives an intangible gift.

I see the children smile when they get new shoes, it gives me a warm feeling. It rewarding, she said.

And sometimes, Angel Feet will go the extra mile to accommodate a child, because half sizes and wide shoes are not always in stock.
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