Warm Hearts Warm Toes celebrates 10 years

BROWNSTOWN — The first year of the Warm Hearts Warm Toes project in 2012 provided around 25 pairs of shoes and socks to Brownstown students.

For the 10th year of the project, 101 pairs of shoes and socks were given to students attending Brownstown Elementary School and Brownstown Central Middle School and 57 pairs for elementary and middle school students at Crothersville Community Schools.

Over the 10 years, more than 1,100 pairs of shoes have been donated to help kids in need.

“It’s a good feeling,” Becca Hattabaugh of Brownstown said. “It started out with my children (Brooke and Brayton) doing a community project, and then Mom (Becky Wilson) and I, we tag team and do it, so it’s family time, plus just doing it for the community. It’s rewarding.”

The number of shoes this year at both Brownstown and Crothersville is a record. In recent years, the total has topped 100.

Why? Hattabaugh said the economy is a big factor.

This year, they struggled finding shoes in the stores.

“It was a lot more of a challenge this year. Just us trying to find them was a job. It was tough,” Hattabaugh said, as she and her mother visited several Walmart stores in the area, some twice.

“I think it’s just shipping. They aren’t coming in,” Wilson said. “It has been tough because we’ve had to go so many places.”

Wilson said she obtained the list of shoe sizes from Crothersville soon after school started, and she was done shopping in September.

“Now, they’ve got the middle school going with the shoes, too. It used to just be elementary,” she said. “I was shocked (with the total number). When they brought the list, I thought, ‘Oh wow!’”

Hattabaugh received the Brownstown information in October and bought the last shoes the week of Thanksgiving when they were all delivered to the two schools.

“Even through the stress of it all, it was like, ‘We’re done. We did our community work,’” Hattabaugh said.

“I’m just glad I’m able to do it because I had surgery done on my knee in March,” Wilson said. “I’m fortunate that I was out there able to do it. It means a lot because the kids need the shoes.”

Once again this year, Hattabaugh and Wilson received a lot of financial support from Society of St. Vincent de Paul, an international Catholic organization that helps the poor. Plus, they received donations from The Peoples Bank and individuals and contributed their own money.

“It’s not really about the money,” Hattabaugh said. “It’s just we want to make sure that the kids get what they need. That’s the most important part.”

Molly Davis, a counselor at Brownstown Elementary School, was happy to receive the shoes and socks for students. This is her second year at the school.

“Being so new (last year), I was trying to learn the process of everything, so this year, I think I’ll really be able to take that in and just enjoy seeing them enjoy their new shoes,” she said.

She had several kids ask about shoes before the project started this year.

“It’s just rewarding, and I love this program because they get excited,” Davis said. “So many of them, they come into the new school year and you can already tell they need new shoes, probably because they’ve been playing hard over the summer. Just seeing their excitement makes me excited.”

She appreciates the efforts of Hattabaugh and Wilson.

“We are so thankful and just blessed that we have these wonderful ladies in the community to help us,” Davis said. “We really do need help with our kiddos, and we are so fortunate to have them.”

At one time, Hattabaugh said they did a gift tree during Christmas to provide toys. She realized, however, the kids weren’t getting what they need. That’s when they started the Warm Hearts Warm Toes project.

Hattabaugh was working as a substitute teacher for Brownstown schools and saw students wearing flip-flops in the winter.

Because teachers typically have a lot of responsibility taking care of children in their classrooms, Hattabaugh wanted to be able to help with “the small things.” She also understood some people don’t have the jobs to be able to provide more for their kids.

The project has become a labor of love for the family, and they plan to keep it going.

“As long as we’re able to keep doing it, we’re going to keep doing it. We all look forward to it,” Hattabaugh said.

Her hope is someone will take the initiative to provide shoes and socks to other schools in Jackson County.

“We just really hope that people will see the story and reach out to the schools and do their part as a community because our little people are our future,” Hattabaugh said. “If they see kindness, they are going to want to be kind, too.”

To contribute to the Warm Hearts Warm Toes project, contact Hattabaugh at 812-528-0316.