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Tom Barnes explains his journey to make Shoes for Kids (S4K) a success.

Tom BarnesTom Barnes is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts in being a Rotarian.

I was born and raised on a quintessential Iowa farm. Hard work and long hours ruled my youth. It was this environment that taught me that anything I wanted to accomplish could be done with enough elbow grease and fortitude. All the farmers belonged to one large family of neighbors that helped each other out when the need would arise. There wasn’t competition between the farms, just a general sense of what needed to get done to support our families and the people of the world with crops and livestock products. After this amazing upbringing, I found a love of manufacturing and was able to build a business that has allowed me to continue to give back to my community.

I found Rotary after my family was raised and I had the need to belong to a family-like group. Rotary is definitely that group. Everyone bands together to accomplish goals and help our community thrive.

In 2003, I took over a neglected project, Shoes for Kids (S4K). The Shoes for Kids project provides Payless Shoes gift cards to students identified and having a need by the school health administration. The benefit of new shoes over hand me downs is pride. Many of these students have simply never had the opportunity to go shopping and actually pick out what they want in a store. It is our hope that they will get two gifts out of our donation, new proper fitting shoes and a boost in their self-esteem. We also hope that they remember the feeling and pay it forward when life affords them that opportunity.

The glory of this project is that it can be replicated in any community. We started out by soliciting friends and local business leaders for donations, and by participating in local events, such as fairs and parades. Our giving base has expanded each year. To date we have donated over $70,700 in new shoes! You can make this happen in your town too. There is no better feeling than when a student writes a thank you letter in crayon letting you know how they love their first pair of new shoes, or when a school health administrator tells you about the student that came to school with holes in the bottoms of their shoes and the toes cut out so their feet were not smashed, and was able to go home with brand new sneakers.

Tom Barnes took over and made Shoes for Kids a success.