National News

My New Red Shoes helps underprivileged students prepare for school

Posted August 28, 2017 3:54 p.m. EDT

— Whether or not they're a parent, most people have likely heard about how expensive it can be to get kids ready to head back to school and not every local family can afford to buy it all.

That's where the non-profit My New Red Shoes comes in, to help homeless and low-income students look and feel great before they head to class.

Yelena Voznyuk knows what it's like to not have much, and unfortunately, it's an all too familiar story.

"It was really hard because kids made fun of me because I didn't have nice things," Voznyuk said. "My parents didn't have a lot. It was my dad supporting six people. We packed a couple bags with us and started fresh."

Memories of those challenges are why she's volunteering to help spare underprivileged children from some of the struggles she faced growing up, but she's also living proof that something as simple as a new pair of shoes can make a big difference.

"People underestimate how difficult school can be," she said. "And having a new pair of shoes, or a nice jacket or backpack can help your confidence so much."

One of the groups My New Red Shoes worked with this year is IRCO, an organization that works to help immigrants and refugees. It's just one of the places that will receive back-to-school gift bags to distribute to kids.

My New Red Shoes Executive Director Minh Ngo said each and every bag-handpicked with a specific child in mind.

Each hand-sewn bag is loaded with back-to-school goodies, like gift cards, an encouraging handwritten note and some new kicks, all of which were donated.

Ngo said the group's efforts go far beyond clothing.

"When they don't have shoes and clothes that fit, they can't concentrate in class," she said. "When they don't feel good about their clothes it affects their confidence and self-esteem."

Now, thanks to My New Red Shoes, nearly a thousand kids in the Portland metro area will head back to school in style and knowing someone cares.

My New Red Shoes was founded in California 11 years ago and started up its Portland branch about three years ago.