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Holiday shoe giveaway for Newport News, Hampton children expands to year-round operation

Bill Hoffman is behind the nonprofit group, "Shoe Lady." A team of volunteers buys and distributes free shoes to kids who need them.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The coronavirus pandemic has forced volunteers at a nonprofit that provides free shoes for children in Newport News and Hampton to change how they operate.

Every holiday, nonprofit group "Shoe Lady" gives away free shoes to families.

Last year, in just one day, they gave away 836 pairs of shoes to kids at 25 schools. Their total for 2019 was 876 pairs.

But this year is different - the pandemic has changed the way Shoe Lady operates.  

“In fact, it’s taken us most of the year to figure out what comes next for us," founder and Newport News resident Bill Hoffman said.   

“Children get a lot of things, but shoes are often the things they don’t get. You know how painful it is to walk in shoes that don’t fit.”  

Hoffman founded Shoe Lady with his late wife who was the original "shoe lady."

Usually he relies on teachers and school officials to tell him which students need shoes so volunteers can deliver them, but in 2020, that’s been an issue. 

Online learning means teachers must find new ways to determine who needs shoes.  

“Students have not been in schools for the most part," Hoffman said. “The teachers and schools officials don’t see the students on a daily basis in school, so they don’t see their feet and shoes, but they are also able to see inside the homes… so they have a different perspective than they have in the past.” 

What was once a holiday shoe giveaway is now becoming a year-round effort to get shoes to kids who need them.

Hoffman said Shoe Lady will do its annual holiday giveaway this year, but next year they plan to give out shoes monthly.  

“Kids need shoes year-round, they need them when they first come back to school, they need them in the spring. Their feet grow, they outgrow sizes,” he said. 

Hoffman and his crew of volunteers need your help. You can donate brand-new shoes or money to purchase shoes. 

Visit their website, shoelady.org, for more information.