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By Thomas J. Sullivan–
Students at Mariposa Elementary School in Citrus Heights are now benefiting from a special “Soles for Young Souls” shoe closet, thanks to the work of Linda (Schram) Fischer and the generosity of several book club members of San Juan High School Class of 1966.
School Principal Leslee Cottrell has set aside the needed shelf space for the shoe closet in the front office, and donations that come in are quickly put on the shelves. Students at the school simply need to ask at the front office and a new pair of boys’ or girls’ shoes and socks will soon be theirs. Parents of Mariposa Elementary students can also approach school office staff during regular hours to request to visit the closet on their children’s behalf.
Mariposa Elementary serves almost 400 students in preschool through fifth grade, and about 83 percent of its students qualify as low socioeconomic status, according to Cottrell. The student population includes 10 different languages which are Spanish, Dari, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic, Romanian, Tagalog, Vietnamese and American Sign Language.
The “Soles for Young Souls” shoe closet received its official nonprofit status last month, with Fischer serving as its president, Jackie (Hull) Rittenhouse serving as vice-president/secretary and Ruth Fox as treasurer.
Fischer and Rittenhouse serve together on the Sunrise Ranch Neighborhood Association board and Fox’s husband formerly served on the Citrus Heights City Council.
Cottrell told The Sentinel many of her students were seen wearing too-tight or worn-out shoes and it appeared likely that their families couldn’t afford new ones.
“They often qualify for CalWorks and CalFresh, and just don’t have enough left in the family budget to purchase their children’s shoes,” Cottrell said.
On Fischer’s behalf, she wrote a letter of introduction to community members to introduce Mariposa Elementary’s need for flexible donations in order to provide new shoes in a variety of child and adult sizes to meet the needs of her students.
“Many of our teachers have directly referred their students to our office shoe closet when they’ve seen the poor condition of the footwear that their students are wearing, Cottrell said. “Some of our students come to school wearing sandals in the winter months.”
“Some younger children have already grown through smaller sizes and now require an adult-sized shoe,” Cottrell said. “Children grow so quickly and so often that their shoes are often too small, even after a few short months.”
How it began
“It broke my heart that there was such a need,” said Fischer, who attended Mariposa Elementary School as a young girl. When she became aware of the need for new children’s shoes at the school, Fischer asked the fellow members of San Juan High School alumni if they could help.
Fisher said the shoe closet stepped off at the beginning of the school year with an initial inventory of 54 pairs of shoes donated by the San Juan High School ‘66rs Book Club. More than 300 students have since been helped with new shoes and socks through the “Soles for Young Souls” program at Mariposa since the shoe closet started last fall. That’s more than half the total student population of Mariposa Elementary School.
“I know from my own experience as a single parent raising two sons on my own how hard it was to buy shoes for them,” Fischer said.
Fair Oaks attorney Brian E. Sweeney helped contribute his pro bono time to help the group incorporate with the State of California as a 501(C)3 nonprofit. Now that the group is a registered nonprofit, Fischer is hopeful the shoe closet effort will better be able to solicit donations and expand to reach many more students in the 40,000-plus San Juan Unified School District.
Those interested in donating a pair of boys or girls shoes are asked to check with the front office at Mariposa Elementary School for which sizes are needed most.
“Gift cards towards the purchase of new children’s shoes are also welcome,” Fischer said. She’s saddened that Payless Shoe Source is closing both of its stores in Citrus Heights, since their store managers were helpful in offering children’s shoes at a corporate discount.
Donations of children’s shoes of all sizes can be dropped off at the school at 7940 Mariposa Ave. Linda Fischer can also be reached at (916) 765-7476.
*This story has been updated to include a correction on Linda Fischer’s phone number.
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