Kids shouldn’t have to wear flip-flops to school in the winter.
A few years ago while serving as a substitute teacher, that’s exactly what Becca Hattabaugh saw.
“I knew kids wearing flip-flops is not good for the winter, so it was a need,” she said. “Everybody needs warm shoes and socks with the weather. But due to the economy, they just didn’t have the necessities that they needed.”
For the past four years, Hattabaugh, her mother, Becky Wilson, and her daughter, Brooke Hattabaugh; along with Maureen Pesta have worked together on the Warm Hearts Warm Toes project. It provides a new pair of shoes and a few pairs of new socks to kids at local schools who need them.
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Each year, they contact school officials for names of students and their shoe size.
Around the first of November, they start collecting monetary donations from two local Catholic churches, St. Ambrose in Seymour and Our Lady of Providence in Brownstown, with assistance from the local chapter of St. Vincent de Paul Society. That is an international Catholic organization that helps less-fortunate people with a variety of services.
The Hattabaughs and Wilson then take that money and shop for shoes and socks, and they deliver them to the schools before Thanksgiving. School officials then distribute them to the kids.
Brownstown Elementary School students have received shoes and socks every year, and the middle school was involved at one point. The project also has reached students in Crothersville and Medora when a list of names has been submitted.
The first year, Wilson said the project provided shoes and socks for around 25 Brownstown kids. But this year, that number reached a high of 63, and it also helped 25 Crothersville kids.
Organizers say the increase in the number of kids is related to the economy.
“I think the need is even greater than it used to be because we’ve gone through some bad times,” Pesta said. “Sometimes, it’s a little bit overwhelming to hear from people and their needs for utilities and food and their problems with food stamps and their medical problems, all the things that set them back.”
It’s St. Vincent de Paul’s mission to do what it can to help people, she said.
“Our organization just tries to help people get through an immediate crisis and be a really friendly and supportive voice,” Pesta said. “We can’t really turn things around, but we can just work with individuals and try to help out.”
At one time, Becca Hattabaugh said, they did a gift tree during Christmas to provide toys.
“But the kids weren’t getting what they need,” she said. “Everybody likes toys, but kids need necessities, too.”
That’s when they turned to the Warm Hearts Warm Toes project.
Providing soles has been good for the soul, Becca Hattabaugh said.
“We’re just very compassionate,” she said. “We
love children, and it’s heartwarming to know that they are getting things that they need, a necessity. Just doing something for our community is what we enjoy.”
Becky Wilson said it takes a lot of time and work, but it has become a labor of love.
“It’s a great feeling that kids can have shoes on their feet,” she said.
Brooke Hattabaugh, a senior at Brownstown Central High School, said it’s a good way for her to do community service. So she is helping herself and helping others.
“I cadet teach with first grade, and they just really melt my heart,” she said.
Pesta said Brownstown Elementary guidance counselor Jill Miller told her that the project means a lot to the kids.
“She was telling me that the kids look forward to it and begin asking her when it’s going to happen,” Pesta said. “Becky and Becca have kind of made that into a tradition now, so people are looking forward to it.”
St. Vincent de Paul Society is an international Catholic organization that helps the poor.
The local chapter offers a help line where people can receive information to help them with food and utilities. It also helps with the Warm Hearts Warm Toes project that provides new shoes and socks for local children.
For information, call 812-524-8566.