The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Happy feet

Youth tie up shoe problem

Brita Thomas put her best foot forward when a schoolmate was in need. "My friend was sitting out of gym because she had these old cruddy shoes," explains Brita, a member of North Buffalo Lutheran Church, Moorhead, Minn. "There was a big hole in them and her toe was sticking out."

So 11-year-old Brita asked her mother, Noreen, if she could use her allowance to buy her friend gym shoes. They went shopping.

That was just the start. Brita and her mother asked school officials if other kids needed shoes. They learned there was a great need: More than 8,000 youth in the area live in poverty.

So Brita came up with an idea — Happy Feet.

A project of the Oakmound 4-H Club, Happy Feet is a nonprofit organization that helps kids get shoes. Twenty-five youth, ages 8 to 18, run the charity. They write grant proposals, do the accounting, create logos and design the Web site. Many participants attend Lutheran churches — North Buffalo, Christ the King and Trinity, Moorhead; and Hope, Fargo, N.D.

Area schools and a homeless shelter identify the kids in need. Club members receive tracings of the children's feet, match the sizes and buy the shoes. Purchases are made possible through grants and donations.

In its first year, Happy Feet provided more than 1,000 pairs of shoes. So far the group says it has raised more than $25,000.

Support for Happy Feet extends to the White House, where first lady Hillary Clinton wrote: "Please stay interested in issues affecting our communities and our country... . Remember that you can make a difference."

Brita and her friends plan to continue making a difference. They want to buy 456 pairs of shoes — a dozen "happy feet" for each school in two area counties.


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