Head Start children receive new shoes

HARLINGEN — Cash register number nine at Walmart was packed yesterday with children and their parents as they waited to ring up their new shoes and socks.

Kids fidgeted in the shopping carts as their parents double checked the size of the chosen shoes to make sure there was enough room for future growth.

Buying shoes for children that will soon outgrow them is tough.

It’s even harder for families on strict budgets.

The Shoes for Kids program provides children in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs with free shoes and socks.

The annual program is an initiative led by the Cameron County District Clerk’s office in partnership with NINOS Inc.

NINOS, or Neighbors in Need of Services, is a nonprofit organization that provides family services through a head start program for children under the age of 4.

Yesterday, the organization held two events, one in Brownsville and another in Harlingen, to benefit the children of Cameron and Willacy counties.

More than 200 children received new shoes.

Esmeralda Rodriguez from NINOS said the children are given the opportunity to choose the type of shoes they prefer.

“Children come and they look at the shoes and they select them for themselves instead of the parents doing it,” Rodriguez said.

Parents are encouraged to let the children have full autonomy over which shoes to pick.

Light up sneakers and My Little Pony boots were being chosen by small children as their parents helped them pick out the perfect size.

One of the parents, Isabel Gonzalez, took her son to pick up a new pair of shoes for the upcoming year.

“What can I say, I am very grateful for this gift,” Gonzalez said.

The program is funded by money collected from jury duty donations.

Because the organization serves nearly 3,000 children and the money is donated, children able to receive shoes are chosen based on need.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to give shoes to all of them,” Rodriguez said.

After checking out new shoes, parents and their children were given an opportunity to take a photo with District Clerk Eric Garza dressed up as Santa Claus and pick a goody bag filled with snacks.

“We need to invest in our children,” Garza said. “I think jurors know there’s a need and they’re opening their hearts by donating the money they make during jury duty.”