After Melissa Hoffman died of a stroke in August 2016, her husband, Bill and daughter, Caroline, wanted to continue ShoeLady as part of her legacy.
“It made sense to keep it going,” said Bill Hoffman, who co-founded ShoeLady with Melissa in 2013. “There is a need and she gets all the credit for it.”
According ShoeLady’s website, Melissa Hoffman one day that year noticed a young boy walking barefoot in the rain holding a pair of women’s shoes. After she learned his parents couldn’t afford to buy him new shoes, Melissa donated a new shoes to the child and called two other schools asking if children needed shoes. She received 85 requests.
That’s when she became the ShoeLady.
ShoeLady accepts new shoes for children and acts as a liaison between the local schools and shoe donors so the children remain anonymous. The shoes must be new and old shoes will not be accepted.
“It’s funny the new shoe thing is really hard to get across,” Bill Hoffman said.
Schools submit forms which include the child’s shoe preferences and the donations come from individual donors and several organizations such as the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg.
Hoffman uses their living room in their Newport News home to sort through hundreds of shoes within a two-day period so the schools have more time to find kids who need shoes and the donors have more time to drop off donations.
Valerie Taylor, communality engagement coordinator at Bethel Elementary School in Gloucester said ShoeLady has been successful.
“Shoes are expensive if you have more than one child…it really racks up,” Taylor said.
Last year, ShoeLady received 400 pairs of shoes.
Hoffman expects close to 500 shoes this year and plans to move furniture out of his living and dining rooms to accommodate the donations.
Amy Killian, family engagement specialist at John Tyler Elementary School in Hampton, said ShoeLady is a blessing and there are at least 80 children walking with donated shoes.
“While the ShoeLady organization works to bring relief to children’s soles, I’d argue they do more than they realize for those children’s souls,” she wrote in an email.
On a recent conference calls with school staff, one of the coordinators told Hoffman “if you gave me 200 pairs of shoes, I could find the feet for them.”
To donate shoes, go to the Pledge Shoes tab on ShoeLady’s website.
ShoeLady’s annual 2018 Holiday Shoe Drive ends Dec. 10 and benefits children from the following schools:
Bethel Elementary, Gloucester
Dare Elementary, Yorktown
Mathew Whaley Elementary, Williamsburg
James River Elementary, Williamsburg
Jane Bryan Elementary, Hampton
John Tyler Elementary, Hampton
Benjamin Syms Middle School, Hampton
Hunter B. Andrews Middle School, Hampton
Sedgefield Elementary, Newport News
Carver Elementary, Newport News
Lee Hall Elementary, Newport News
L.F. Palmer Elementary, Newport News
Newsome Park Elementary, Newport News
Discovery STEM Academy, Newport News
An Achievable Dream Academy, Newport News
John Marshall Early Learning Center, Newport News