Shoes for kids who can't afford them

SANDUSKY With the holidays steadily approaching, the Sandusky Firefighters Charity Fund needs help to make sure the fund keep
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



With the holidays steadily approaching, the Sandusky Firefighters Charity Fund needs help to make sure the fund keeps itstradition of giving.

According to the department, less than $300 has been donated to the fund in its 51st year.

The fund takes in donations year-round, and has provided more than 8,000 children in Sandusky, Huron, Margaretta and the surrounding areas the opportunity to have a new pair of shoes for free.

"A lot of the work is done around Christmas," said Battalion Chief Michael Yost. "But we collect donations year-round."

The fund was started in 1956 when the late William Strouse, a Sandusky businessman, donated $500 to the fire department to help needy children in the community. Since, the fund has grown and the department provided more than 400 pairs of shoes and spends $10,000-15,000 or more a year.

On the day after Thanksgiving, the department opens its door from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. for families in need to register their children.

"We take the names, give out the vouchers," Lietunent Gary Zakrajsek said, "and that's it. Arthur's Shoe Tree sizes the kids, let them pick from a few choices and makes sure the shoes fit."

Arthur's Shoe Tree owner Ron Brandich said he's been involved with the campaign since 1971.

"They had been using various shoe stores at the time," he said. "When they contacted us. I offered them a large discount and as the other stores closed, we offered them an even larger discount."

Mary Fingler, store manager at the shoe shop, said in her 27 years, she's seen a lot of people come through the program.

"You do get those few who cause problems," she said, "but the good of it outweighs the bad. When they tell you thank you and you tell them to thank a fireman the next time they see one and you hear that the mom took them down to the department, that part is beautiful."

The American Veterans in Sandusky have been one of the largest donators to the charity, supplying more than $1,000 each year from their Halloween Raffle proceeds.

"We took an interest in donating to it years ago," member Hugh Hubbard said, "and just kept it up."

Zakrajsek said though money is sparse, he just doesn't have the heart to turn a child down.

"We take every child," he said. "Unless we have reason to believe they are not in need."

Though there are always those who try to "cheat the system," Yost said computer systems are set up with a few people working behind the scenes to make sure those receiving vouchers are actually those who need it most.

"It can continue to be a good program," Zakrajsek said, "if the people who are getting the help are responsible enough to say whether they need it or don't."