Paula Sedillo, also known as “the shoe lady,” has a mission to outfit every young child in Prescott and Prescott Valley, Arizona, with shoes.
Her non-profit organization, Tennies for Tots, provides shoes to toddlers and preschoolers from low-income or homeless families.
And, Paula always has footwear on hand to take care of a need.
Tennies for Tots started after Paula had volunteered at a back-to-school giveaway for school-age children. She saw that they received the supplies and shoes they needed, but she wondered about the younger children.
That’s when Tennies for Tots was born.
When the program began, word spread and donations started coming in. During the first giveaway, many parents had registered their young children to receive shoes. And Paula filled two rooms with shoes and socks at the Coalition for Compassion and Justice to give away to them.
Today, the need keeps growing, so Paula distributes shoes three times a year, and as needed. Shoes are given away at back-to-school events and throughout the year.
When Paula gets a donation, she buys common sizes and keeps a good stock of shoes in her supply so she can quickly meet needs.
Families are in need year round. Things happen and people need help. That’s why we do what we do.” – Paula Sedillo, Tennies for Tots founder
“I store things in my house and in my shed,” says Paula. “But I don’t collect them to store them. I collect them to give away.”
In addition to the different giveaway events, Paula also works with local schools to help young children.
Schools let her know the sizes they need and give her the first names of the children. Paula finds just the right shoes for each child and includes a pair of socks to go with them.
Paula includes a tag with each pair of shoes that says, “A gift from Tennies for Tots,” with the child’s name on the back of the tag. If a child needs a different size or another fit, the school contacts Paula.
In addition to being “the shoe lady,” Paula is the senior living office supervisor at Good Samaritan Society – Willow Wind in Prescott.
And Paula gets Willow Wind residents involved in her mission. They help with getting the shoes ready and putting tags on them.
Willow Wind is also a collection site for the shoes and socks, as well as books and toys. The donated items have been a blessing to many in the community.
Since Tennies for Tots distributes shoes about three times a year, Paula is working on getting to where she’s a season ahead with her supply. She buys snow boots, sandals and tennis shoes.
And she is thankful for her regular donors.
“I tell them, ‘Anything you can send, I can use. Anything you’re able to do, I can make work,’” says Paula. “I can buy a pair of sandals for $1.”
In order to expand the reach of Tennies for Tots, Paula decided to make it a non-profit organization. She now has four board members and a grant writer.
Her passion has become contagious.
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Paula's son, an engineer, and his friends are helping with the website. Paula’s fiancée helps with deliveries. Other family members help prepare shoes and socks for distribution.
“There’s a lot of people around me willing to help,” says Paula. “The need is so huge.”
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Video by Lonnie Nichols and infographic by Kristy Anderson
Good Samaritan Society staff members