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Every student at a Springfield elementary school got a brand-new pair of shoes last week

Courtney Skornia/KSMU
Labor Council member Zach McElwain helps tie Bowerman Elementary student Halie's new shoes on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024.

Through a partnership linking the Springfield Central Labor Council, United Way of the Ozarks and Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, 250 students at Bowerman Elementary got new donated footwear on Friday.

“Alright, my friends, what you’re going to do is take off your shoes and socks and you’re going to put your socks inside your old shoes, said Angie Valchev, principal of Bowerman Elementary school.

On Friday morning, Valchev was busy directing students as they received a big donation from the Springfield Central Labor Council and the United Way of the Ozarks.

“We have a lot of working families and families that are barely getting by," said Valchev. "Kids grow out of their shoes, but a kid that comes in a brand-new pair of shoes — the minute they hit the doorstep they come in and say, ‘look at my new shoes,’ and they are just ready to go for the day and feel powerful to walk in their own shoes.”

As part of a Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce partnership, Greg Burris, CEO of United Way of the Ozarks, was selected to be principal for a day. He asked Valchev what the United Way could do to help the students at Bowerman and went back to his team to start planning.

Valchev said, “They jumped right in when I said, you know, I’d love to put shoes on every kid, and here we are."

The United Way connected with the Labor Council, whose members helped with the donation.

“We went above what we wanted to do, and we were able to give all these kids supplies, I believe. Providing for people less fortunate than us just feels really good," said Zach McElwain, a Labor Council member who helped put on second grader Halie’s new colorful sneakers.

“Stomp in there Halie, stomp!”

“They’re hard to put on, but they are perfect once you get them on," Halie said.

United Way chief spokesperson Mary Sue Hoban was excited to see students’ happy faces. She said, “It’s all good; It’s all smiles; it's all happy noise — it's really just a lovely day.”

Students shared excited thank-yous with the donation team.