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Shoe drive benefits Sheriff’s Youth Ranch
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Organizers of the Heart and Sole Shoe Drive at Lake Seminole Square Monday, July 8, display some of the many shoes already collected for the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch. Pictured, from left, are Diane Vandiver, Andrea Sieradzki, Cliff Albrecht of Lake Seminole Square and former Seminole Mayor Jimmy Johnson.
SEMINOLE – Most people likely take for granted that when they start their day they are going to be able to put on a pair of shoes that fit.

Most people, but not everyone, said Seminole Councilor Jim Quinn, and he wants to change that with the Heart and Sole Shoe Drive at Lake Seminole Square on Monday, July 8.

Quinn recently attended a function at the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch in Safety Harbor. Afterwards, he was offered a tour that opened his eyes.

“My tour guide was a 7-year-old boy. His name was Jason and he was all decked out in his finest, all spit and polish,” Quinn said. “It was while he was walking in front of us that I noticed he had on a pair of sneakers that were way too big. I realized that I had to do something to help.”

Quinn did some research and began to understand why the boy wasn’t able to have shoes that fit.

“These kids are at the Sheriff’s Youth Ranch because they have to be there,” he said. “Usually it is because their parents are in trouble with the law. They are probably in jail and the children have nowhere else to go.”

Quinn added, “They come there with just the clothes on their backs and not much else. They need help to make sure they don’t follow their parents down the same path. They need a helping hand.”

That was three months ago. Quinn contacted his good friend, former Seminole Mayor Jimmy Johnson, for help.

“I got involved because Quinn came to me and asked me if we could do something to get these kids shoes,” Johnson said. “He told me that little boy could not even keep his balance in the shoes he was wearing. I said, ‘Yes, we can do something and get the people of Seminole involved, because they really do care.’ I thought it was a great idea and we began marketing it. We want to make sure that all the kids at the Youth Ranch get shoes.”

What came of their effort was the first annual Heart and Sole Shoe Drive. On July 8, people can drop off a new pair of shoes, or make a donation, at Lake Freedom Square, 8333 Seminole Blvd., between 10 a.m. and noon. There will be a Sherriff’s car on site and the hope is to fill that car with shoes that can be taken straight away to the Youth Ranch in Safety Harbor.

Diane Vandiver, the outreach business development director at Lake Seminole Square, said it was not a tough decision to make to get involved with the shoe drive.

“When Jim Quinn told me about what he had seen, I said, ‘We can get you some shoes,’” she said. “We try to give back to the community any way we can. Both Quinn and Jimmy Johnson have supported us in things we’ve done in the past, so we’re happy to help them.”

She added, “Sometimes bad things happen to good people. These kids are not truants; they are there through no fault of their own. This is a way for Lake Seminole Square to show the community that we’re here for a lot of different things.”

Quinn said there aren’t many better causes than helping the Sheriff’s Youth Ranch. He says he will never forget the tour he took that day with the young boy.

“He showed us his quarters, where they slept,” he said. “His 3-year-old brother shared the room with him. He does his own laundry and he goes to school from there. The Sheriff makes sure the kids are safe.”

The Youth Ranch consists of a number of cottages where the children live, Quinn said. Each cottage has “house parents” who oversee the activities. Many of these “house parents” are volunteers. He noted that budgets are always limited, thus the need for new shoes.

Vandiver said 25 pairs of shoes have already been collected and she expects many more before July 8, not to mention what will be collected that day.

“I’ve already talked with the local Chambers of Commerce, the Gulf Beaches, Seminole, and Largo, and they have all said they would help collect shoes,” she said. “In fact, people can drop off shoes at any of those locations, too.”

Vandiver said she hopes people realize that even with one pair of shoes or one phone call they can make a difference.

“If people would do one thing to help, it will show that they can make a great deal of difference. I can make some phone calls, my co-workers can make some phone calls and we can get shoes for these kids. The community is passionate and will respond. This is something people can do to make a difference.”

“A pair of shoes that fit is something they should not have to worry about when they get up in the morning,” she said.

Former Mayor Johnson echoed that sentiment.

“No child should be without shoes in our society today, but I saw it at the ranch,” he said. “People will give but they have to know about it. Once they understand, this will really work.”

For more information about the shoe drive, call 392-3932.
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