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"To love and serve our neighbors as ourselves."

With winter settling in, many of us have already pulled out our scarves, gloves, boots and insulated jackets to ward off the cold. It’s something we do every year when the snow starts falling. But, for 13-year-old Julie, that wasn’t an option this year; Julie had very little winter clothing in her closet at the beginning of the winter, and the winter boots she wore last year didn’t fit anymore thanks to her latest growth spurt. Recently laid off from her job due to the company downsizing, Gina, Julie’s mother, is struggling to afford her mortgage payment, let alone a new pair of boots for her daughter.

Unfortunately, Julie’s story isn’t an isolated case in Blair County. When families hit hard times, necessities like warm winter clothing often take a backseat to paying the rent and putting food on the table. Catholic Charities offers aid to families that have fallen on hard time, and, this year, that includes providing weather appropriate footwear for those in need.

The Catholic Charities office in Blair County recently launched the All Soles Project to help provide teenagers with the shoes they need this winter.

“Many children of all ages experience a lack of basic necessities when the family is struggling financially,” said Michelle Johnston, who is spearheading the campaign. “It is our goal to be a resource for families so they can have choices when it comes to how their needs are met.”

As Johnston explains, families participating in the All Soles Project receive high quality shoes that met the specific needs of their child and family. This program is unique to the county, as it’s the only one providing new footwear for teenagers.

“Imagine never knowing what new feels like,” said Johnston. “Our program provides new footwear by donation and sponsorship,” a luxury these teens aren’t often afforded.

About the All Soles Project

Who’s eligible? The program provides new sneakers and winter boots of all sizes for teens starting at about 7th grade.

Do kids really get to pick shoes they like? Yes! “Our project is focusing on the individuality of the person in need,” Johnston assured us. “We believe that early experiences shape children emotionally as well as physiologically. We aim to promote positive self-esteem and self-worth. [To help meet that goal], the student can pick the correct size, style, color and even brand. The sneaker sponsor will then use this information to shop for our teen in need.”

How does it work? The Catholic Charities office collaborates with a network of K-12 school administrators, guidance counselors and school nurses, including at-risk teen centers local to Blair County in order to identify students who could benefit from the project.

How can I help? Anyone interested in assisting Catholic Charities in the project by sponsoring a teen can call (814) 944-9388. One hundred percent of your donation goes directly toward helping fulfill the basic need of weather appropriate footwear for a child in Blair County.

Your support will help children in Blair County stay warm this winter!

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