Children gathered from all over Anne Arundel County to get free shoes yesterday. Some barely were wearing shoes at all.
For a few children, this was their Christmas. For others, it will be the only pair of shoes they get until next year, when Baltimore Goodwill Industries returns.
There were heart-tugging moments when the children were fitted with $60 LA Gear tennis shoes, delighting the volunteers from the Maryland National Bank who were helping out.
"They love it, especially when they get a pair of pumps," said Janet Lovington, a Maryland National Bank employee, referring to the inflatable tennis shoes.
Up to 40 children at a time sat at tables in a room of Van Bokkelen Elementary School in Severn, all being treated like customers in a shoe store.
More than 375 pairs of shoes were given away yesterday, all bought by Goodwill at a discount from J.C. Penney, which had employees at the school to help out.
"This is a way to get the kids in the shoes and out the door," said J.G. Rollins, shoe department manager for J.C. Penney at Security Square Mall in Baltimore County. "It is nice to do this around Christmas. For some of these kids, this is it."
Steven Lebar, who lives in Glen Burnie, was laid off early last year from the marine terminal in Baltimore. He and his girlfriend, LaVeta Shepard, have been unable to find work.
"It's going to be a tough Christmas," he said. One of the children he supports, Jason Shepard, 10, is blind, and was wearing a $9 pair of shoes he got a few months ago.
A few years ago, he said, people were given $15 certificates for shoes, which didn't help much since the prices were way beyond that.
"This is better than before," he said, holding two boxes of new shoes for the two children he supports. "They even come right out and measure the kids."
Stephen A. Summers, public relations manager for Goodwill, said the organization will give away more than 2,000 shoes in Baltimore and the surrounding counties.
"For some of these people, the shoes have to last a year," he said. "One mother had her son wearing her old shoes, because his wore out. The shoe giveaway was where he was going to get his next pair, but the ones he was wearing didn't last long enough."
Mr. Summers said Goodwill bought the shoes for about $17 each -- a considerable discount, since they are worth between $40 and $60.
"This helps us considerably," said Crystal Henderson, who drove to the school from Severna Park with her two children, Michael, 8, and Michele, 7. "Everybody wants something new on Christmas."
Unfortunately, not everyone in need can benefit. Mr. Summers said more requests come in every year.
"We can't put shoes on every kid's feet," he said. "We wish we could do more."