Agencies work together to help prevent cold feet

Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Several area organizations are partnering in a program aimed at getting underfoot of as many women as possible this winter.

The program is Juneau-based Footwear for Families, and its goal is to distribute winter boots to people in need. This is the second year the program has existed on the Kenai Peninsula.

Last year, about 400 children's boots were distributed to kids in need through area school nurses. This year about 300 ladies' boots are hoping to prevent local women from getting cold feet this winter. Most will go to seniors who don't have or can't afford boots of their own.

"Some of these people haven't had a pair of boots in years," said Kate Gelinas, a Meals on Wheels driver for the Kenai Senior Citizens Center who helped deliver the boots. "... Most of these people can't afford to buy boots, they're very poor."

The Kenai Senior Citizens Center accepted the task of distributing the boots last year after being contacted by Footwear for Families and is continuing that role this year.

"We've gotten a good response (to the program)," said Luann Barrett, activities volunteer coordinator at the center. "People just can't believe we have brand new boots here to give away."

The boots came from Big Kmart through Footstar Meldisco, the company's footwear distributor. Footstar Meldisco reduced its end-of-season prices on winter boots last year, allowing Footwear for Families representatives to buy them for 10 to 15 cents on the dollar.

The Kenai Rotary Club purchased the boots with money donated by Walters and Associated Insurance of Kenai.

Jeff Belluomini, president of Walters and Associates, said his involvement in the Kenai Rotary Club motivated him to contribute to the program.

"The Rotary Club is a big part of it," he said. "I'm a member of that, and that is what we're about -- giving back to the community. ... I just wanted to help out, and the best way to do that was to finance (the purchase of the boots)."

After buying the boots, the Kenai Rotary Club transported them to the Kenai branch of The Salvation Army, where they were stored. Now that winter is fast approaching, it's up to the senior center to see the boots are put to good use.

Barrett contacted other senior centers in the central peninsula to see if they were interested in helping get the boots to people in need. The Soldotna, Sterling and Nikiski senior citizens centers have requested boots to distribute to their clients.

The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank has some boots to give out. Other women's boots and the few children's boots that were bought this year will go to the Women's Resource and Crisis Center to be given away.

"They're leaving, the boots are disappearing," Barrett said.

At the Kenai center, Gelinas was asked to find people in need of new boots along her delivery route. So far, Gelinas has given boots to about 20 people, she said.

"One little lady just hugged me and cried," Gelinas said. "I brought them to her and she said 'how much' and I said 'they're free' and she said 'Oh' and just start crying and hugging me and saying 'God bless you.'"

Barrett expects this is the last year the program will run.

"Due to the fact that Kmart is no longer with us, I assume this is the last year we'll do this unless somebody steps up to the plate," she said.

If possible, Barrett said she'd like to see the program continue, since it's a program the center is happy to be be involved in.

"It's so nice to be able to reach out to these people and be able to give them something that they can't provide for themselves," Gelinas said.

Any women interested in a pair of boots may call area senior centers or stop by the food bank. The boot distribution will continue until they are all given out, but they are going fast, Barrett added.

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