Back to school time is filled with multiple expenses for parents, ranging from backpacks and supplies to haircuts and clothing.
For some, the added expense of a new pair of shoes might be beyond their budget.
Enter Kristan Mraz and Anthony Nelson with Shoe Sensation. As the first day of school in Grove and Jay approached, the pair, the assistant manager and manager respectively, began talking about ways to help others.
Mraz contacted Shaunda Davis, Grove High School English instructor, to find out if she might know of some students within the two communities who needed some extra help.
"Back to School is almost worse than Christmas for some parents," Davis said, adding programs within the community - including the Angel Tree, often help provide gifts during the holiday season.
Davis began making calls and a list of Grove and Jay students soon developed.
Then the work began. Davis, Mraz and Nelson put signs up at the store in Grove, and contacted people who might want to help out a student.
As an added incentive, people who donated a pair of shoes received a $10 gift certificate to use with a $50 purchase. The card could be used on the donated shoes, or on another purchase at Shoe Sensation.
In the end, 27 pairs of shoes were donated for students ranging in age from Pre-Kindergarten to Eleventh grade.
"It was a community effort," Davis said, adding the program was a win-win for the store's staff, because it encouraged people to shop locally, to help local children in need. "It helps the economy when you buy local."
Mraz said the participants who purchase shoes varied. Some were families who wanted to purchase an extra pair of shoes, others were empty nesters who decided to help a younger student.
Members of Grove's First Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church of Grove also adopted students.
Each participant was given either a pink or blue slip of paper, which listed the child's first name, gender, shoe size and favorite color. Many of the customers wrote personalized notes to their student on the shoe's tag.
Davis said one student, who received a note with his shoes, was in tears as he read the message.
"He almost got more excited about the note than the shoes," Davis said.
Mraz said the project was small this year, but both she and Nelson hope it will not only grow, but remain an annual event.
"All of the shoes were name brand," Mraz said. "People put their heart into it. They really cared."
During a visit from the area director, Shoe Sensation staff worked together to adopt several students from list.
Mraz and Nelson said they are already working on the next community project, to take place later this fall.
"It was a whole community effort," Mraz said. "Shoe Sensation wants us to be community based. They want us to dig deep."