SAN DIEGO — When two San Diego sisters needed help organizing a sneaker giveaway for military families in need, they didn't know who to call. In this Zevely Zone, I met a dynamic duo from the Assistance League of Greater San Diego with big shoes to fill.
If you've never heard of the Assistance League, the only thing you need to know is that the nonprofit organization is always one step ahead of the pack when it comes to spreading good. But a sneaker giveaway was a path two sisters knew little about.
"Nothing," laughed Mary Vicknair.
The Assistance League volunteer had piles and piles of shoes with no way to kick start her project. Mary sent me an email which I returned in seconds because she sounded like she needed help.
"Immediately," said Mary.
Within seconds we were speaking on the phone. Mary told me that the person who really wanted to spread the word about their sneaker campaign was her sister.
"She's a real talker," warned Mary.
"Oh, lord did she really say that?" asked Mary's sister Martha.
Both sisters were at a loss of words really when it came to giving away sneakers. They had no idea giving away new shoes to military family preschoolers in need could be such a battle.
"We ran into a huge obstacle trying to work with the military. There's just a lot of red tape," said Martha.
That's when the nonprofit organization STEP, stepped in. Tracy Owens is STEP'S Programs Manager but more importantly, she is a retired Navy Lieutenant Commander who eats red tape for breakfast.
"Shoes are expensive. Some of these families have two and three children and toddlers," said Tracy who was licensed to operate an aircraft carrier.
"I did get qualified to drive an aircraft carrier," said Tracy who knew just how to get boots on the ground to make this giveaway go.
STEP stands for Support the Enlisted Project. The group specializes in helping military families in financial crises that are facing evictions, repossessions, and hunger. On Saturday, 200 families will receive 20,000 pounds of food, 7,500 diapers and new shoes for the kids.
"Without partners like the Assistance League we couldn't do what we do," said Tracy.
From book drives for underserved students, to singing to people feeling the isolation of COVID, the Assistance League uses profits from their thrift shop to talk the talk and in this case, walk the walk.
Sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other, which is how two San Diego sisters filled some small shoes with their huge hearts. The moral of the story? Anyone can volunteer to help a stranger in need.
"Yes, definitely, and it's so much fun to do it," said Martha and Mary.
For more information about Assistance League of Greater San Diego click here.
STEP provides food and diapers to military families in need every month. If you'd like to make a donation or volunteer for the program, click here.
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