Valerie’s Story

“People recognize that it’s the right thing to do.’

“Every holiday season since 1992 I have been part of a team that collects new shoes for kids. Stepp’n Up Shoes for Kids is a national organization that started in South Florida and I am president of the Broward chapter. For many, the shoes we give them will be their only pair of shoes for the year.

We find the kids who need the shoes from the Ann Storck Center, Jack and Jill Children’s Center, Children’s Home Society, Child Net and the Clothing Closet at the Broward County Courthouse.

Some people give money, some give their time and others give gift wrapping supplies. For those who want to give shoes, we ask for sneakers since that is what kids wear most of the time. We wrap boxes that include a new pair of shoes, socks and some candy. Some of the boxes are given to social workers who to in turn give them to kids. That way it doesn’t look like a handout.

My team includes an accountant and a shopper who makes deals with shoe stores and finds sales. Everyone is a volunteer. We start getting organized in early October with addresses, shoe sizes and names. That is when we begin requesting donations on social media. In early December, we load the shoes into our cars, put on our Santa hats and start delivering.

I am the community outreach person. I am a hairdresser at Echo Salon and Spa so I have regular clients that all know about Stepp’n Up and participate in the drive. I keep a gift wrapped shoe box at my salon workstation so the conversation naturally goes to talking about the shoes. It is perfect, I am doing their hair … they can’t leave my chair anyway! Because I’ve spent so many years as a hairdresser in this community, I know a lot of people. I have had many of the same clients for 30 years and I am the official hairdresser of the South Florida Symphony. All of that equals a lot of people and a lot of shoes.

Through the years of doing this project, I have become known as the person who knows what to do with shoes. I don’t refuse any shoes, including used shoes. The Broward Partnership and Coalition for the Homeless takes and distributes the used shoes. Nothing we collect goes to waste.

In 1992, 300 pairs of shoes were donated and 25 of them came from me. In 2017, we donated nearly 2,500. The numbers increased exponentially after I became involved with Leadership Broward. I also have learned how to attract corporate sponsors: the Anderson Law Firm, Sprinklermatic, and Rotary Club.

I don’t set my goals in numbers. I do it by making sure every person involved with our organization is fulfilled and happy. Fulfillment and happiness naturally brings more shoes.

The whole concept started in 1990 when Bar Mitzvah boy Eric Perlyn decided to donate a portion his gift money to buy shoes for kids who never had a brand new pair. Once he saw the reaction from the kids in their new shoes he realized the difference a pair of brand new shoes could make. Since then, Stepp’n Up Shoes For Kids has made a difference with 20,000 pairs.

Now 28 years later, Eric is a surgeon with Doctors Without Borders and he and his family are still involved with the charity he started.

Rarely does anyone turn me down when I ask for a donation. I get an enormous response. I think it is because people recognize that I do this for one clear reason: it is the right thing to do.”

Valerie’s Bag

“I wear sun glasses with no prescription, but finally succumbed to reading glasses at age 58.
The keys are for my bike lock. I don’t drive a car.
My parks and recreation tag is for a Monday morning OLW* class held at the beach recreation center.
The star fruit from my tree needs to ripen and turn yellow.
I use my pen and notebook for grocery lists, things to do, ideas and things to remember.
I use my Kate Spade memorial pouch for keeping receipts.
I do not have a cell phone.”

*Old Ladies Workout

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