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A good fit: New shoes for 250 local kids, thanks to AT&T workers

Once students from areschools picked out their shoes Thursday they had time color pick out stickers donated by Shoe Carnival

Once students from area schools picked out their shoes Thursday, they had time to color and pick out stickers donated by Shoe Carnival vendors. They ended the day with a picture with Santa Claus. The event was sponsored by AT&T employees. | Janelle Walker for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 7, 2014 6:32AM

SOUTH ELGIN — If students’ basic needs aren’t met — a good breakfast and lunch, warm coat and pair of shoes — it is harder for them to be good students, said Kelly O’Brien, principal at Elgin’s Lowrie Elementary School.

That is why events such as the one Thursday — during which 250 students from Elgin and Carpentersville schools got to pick out a new pair of shoes — are so vital, she said.

Employees from the Hoffman Estates AT&T corporate offices raised nearly $10,000 in the past year to make sure that happened, said Judi Koschalke, president of the AT&T Pioneers Illinois Northwest Council.

The council is made up of the company’s employee volunteers, she said.

AT&T employees have been giving back to their communities since the 1960s, said Joanette McBounds, the 2013 shoe project volunteer coordinator. During the year, the council holds several fundraisers among employees to raise money for events such as this.

The group has been using funds to purchase shoes for the area’s needy children for the past seven or eight years, McBounds said.

They work with the school districts to identify the neediest schools, Koschalke said. Five schools were picked this year, and each school was invited to bring 50 students.

Students came from Perry and Golfview elementary schools in Carpentersville, Channing and Lowrie elementary in Elgin, and Parkwood Elementary in Hanover Park.

In years past, other shoe stores have been a part of the efforts, but it was a new event for the South Elgin Shoe Carnival, which had its grand opening in March.

McBounds reached out to the store to see if it would host the event, said Ann Charnecki, regional manager for the chain.

Her boss thought it was a “really cool event,” Charnecki said. The store not only offered 30 percent discounts for all of the purchases but also reached out to its vendors to ensure there were enough child-size shoes available.

“We had product come in from the warehouse — 500 pairs of extra shoes,” she said.

Reebok donated goodie bags for the children to take home with them, and a sock vendor also made sure each child took a new pair home with them, too. Colonial Cafe donated 250 ice cream cone certificates, and BearCo McDonald’s, based in South Elgin, also donated certificates for free Happy Meals in those goodie bags, she added.

South Elgin police and firefighters were also on the scene, passing out stickers to the children.

They also kept an eye on excited kids who nervously tried on three or more pair of shoes to find the exact shoe for them.

Parents were asked to provide sizes for each child, but store employees also did fittings to ensure a good match. Each child got a personal shopper to help find the right shoes with the right fit, McBounds said.

In addition to a pair of shoes and socks, the students also left the store with hats and gloves for the winter.

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