BILLINGS - The Scottish Rite Center presented their yearly donation of shoes for children in Billings School District 2 on Wednesday morning, delivering 888 pairs of shoes that will be distributed among all of the schools in the district that have expressed a need for them this holiday season.
The event has happened each year since 1994 and over 40,000 pairs have been donated. But this year is the first time the shoes will be going directly to the school district. Superintendent Dr. Erwin Garcia was in attendance to accept the donation.
"We have about 600 homeless students, 250 foster care kids and that is not even counting kids that are in poverty. Very excited about partnering with the Scottish Rite doing such a kind donation for our community,” said Garcia.
Lewie Fletcher is the center's valley secretary and has participated in the event for many years. He says the group purchases shoes throughout the year from shoe stores in town, like Shoe Carnival, to give back to kids who need them.
"We are constantly buying shoes and replacing our inventory," said Fletcher. "We go through shoes every day, basically."
Children and their families can also stop by the center at any time during the year to find their perfect pair, and no child is ever turned away.
This is just another example of community support that Garcia has already seen in his short time as superintendent.
“There’s great people around this community," said Garcia. "I know we’ve been hit by some events that are very traumatic and hurtful, but this is a great community. It’s not only a kind, generous, resilient community, but also a community that is willing to not only talk the talk but to walk the talk. It’s a community that is able to get together and do something about the issues that they face, and it makes me feel great to know that we have community support.”
For Fletcher and the other members of the jurisdiction, it's a time he looks forward to each year.
"It’s a wonderful feeling. To give as much better than to receive, as the old saying goes, and to see a smile on a kid’s face with a new pair of shoes as they bounce on their feet and head out, it’s great,” said Fletcher.