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December 14th, 2008
Annual shoe drive helps local families

Ralph Gonzales often went to elementary school without one basic necessity-shoes.“When I was going to school, 1st through 5th grade, I didn’t have any shoes. Some days I would go barefoot,” said Gonzales, who saw his story played out many times in the lives of children living in San Marcos. As a result, in 1996 Gonzales founded the non-profit organization Nosotros la Gente and began a shoe drive out of his home called “Viva Zapatos.”

At that time, Gonzales, who serves as the organization’s president, began with 90 pairs of shoes. In 2007, the organization distributed over 800 pairs of shoes to local families. Now, 12 years later, Gonzales and the 400-plus members of Nosotros la Gente predict that the number of shoes distributed this year will far surpass the 2007 total.

This year’s event was hosted by Payless Shoe Source on highway 80 in San Marcos where the organization had purchased shoes during the store’s “buy-one-get-one-half-off” sale.” The distribution began at 9 a.m. on Saturday, December 13, 2008, and by 11 a.m. 500 shoes had already found grateful new owners.

All the proceeds from their annual turkey dinner fundraiser – held the first Saturday of every November – go towards the purchase of these shoes.

“Viva Zapatos” concentrates on the students of the San Marcos Independent School District and this year they expanded their reach to include Kyle residents. Teachers issue a voucher to students and the students bring the voucher to the shoe drive to claim their free pair of shoes.

One mother, Marilyn Nwaokobia, expressed her appreciation for the event but was taken aback by the hectic crowd at the shoe drive.

“It’s a great event but a little too crowded for me,” said Nwaokobia. “It gets [my daughter] a pair of shoes; it’s a blessing,”

Gonzales believes a lack of basic necessities directly affects a child’s education. “If you don’t have shoes, you don’t want to go to school. I do this because I know what it feels like. I believe in a small way, we are helping,” said Gonzales.

Story and photos by Christina Zambrano

Long lines of families wait to have their vouchers validated for a free pair of new shoes outside Payless Shoe Source on Highway 80.

Families fill the Payless Shoe Source store located on Highway 80 to receive a new pair of shoes.

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