By Robb Murray
---- — MANKATO — It usually starts slow ... and begins to grow.
It's the pile of donated shoes in the collection bins at the Mankato YMCA.
Don't worry, they're not about to foul up the place with the smell of sweat and athlete's foot. These shoes have been donated for a good cause.
"We started a couple of years ago," says Cheryl Hamond of the Y. "And it's gotten better."
People donated new or gently used shoes to the Y, and the Y turns them over to Mankato Area Public Schools. The school district each year has plenty of kids whose families can't afford new shoes. And with kids who grow quickly, the prospect of purchasing new shoes is something some parents can revisit several times during a school year.
At the schools, the shoes are distributed through physical education classes. The Y is the primary supplier.
Hamond said last year the Y collected between 150 and 200 pairs of shoes.
"This year I'm trying to push for more marketing," she said.
Hamond said the Y is making a conscious effort to engage more intentionally in projects that promote social responsibility. That's why they're doing ReShoe, as well as programs to collect eyeglasses and backpacks for kids who can't afford them.
"That's kind of always been what the Y does," she said. "A lot of times the Y is looked at as a 'swim and gym,' But we've got a lot of great programs."
Down the road, there may be other programs to help the less fortunate. For now, they're focusing on shoes, eyeglasses and backpacks.
"We'll start with those, then see what else the community needs," she said.