Christmas shoe giveaway may be coming to an end

MOLINE, Illinois -- Nearly 300 Quad City students will have new shoes for Christmas thanks to a group of retired AT&T employees.

"My favoritest shoes ever," said one girl, showing off her bright blue and pink footwear. "They'll make me run super fast."

On Friday, December 1, the kids packed Famous Footwear for a day of cost-free "shopping." The children were sized and given a new pair of socks. Each boy and girl was then able to choose between two shoe options, picking their favorite pair of Nikes, Sketchers or Converse.

Local AT&T Pioneers, a volunteer group for retirees, have been organizing the event for decades, although no one can remember exactly when the tradition began.

"Once I took over as treasurer, I had no choice but to come back," laughed volunteer Jim Wielend, "but it gets good. You enjoy it, seeing the smiles on the kids' faces."

This year, though, may be the last.

"There's not very many of us left," said Wielend.

The volunteers are simply getting older, Wielend explained. The group's president has taken some tough falls; the vice president had a stroke this year.

"We're getting older, and we can't get the younger people interested in really doing it, so it's sad," said Lou Johnson.

It's hard to be too sad, though, with so many happy, young faces. Volunteers like Johnson are hopeful that somehow the annual shoe giveaway will continue, even in a scaled-back form.

"Who knows? Anything could happen between now and next year," said Johnson.

The AT&T volunteers rely on grants and donations to make the giveaway possible. Local school leaders choose students who they believe could benefit from the shoes to participate.