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Memorial shoe drive off and running for Johnson City students in need

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Aug 15, 2018 at 9:29 PM

Less than two weeks in to the new school year, the Johnson City Schools’ Homeless Education Program has distributed 55 pairs of new shoes to students who are either homeless and at risk.

Program coordinator Bonnie White expects that pace will continue for several weeks as more students are registered and teachers begin taking notice of students who are without appropriate shoes for school or without shoes for PE in particular.

In a couple of months when the weather turns cool, White said the need for new shoes will again be an issue as concerns turn to students who are walking to school or standing outside waiting on school busses with holes in their shoes and cold.

For the past three school years and again this August, the Amanda Grace Minutolo Memorial Shoe Drive has come right on time to help meet the need that White said will continue to wax and wane with the change of seasons throughout the school year.

Amanda’s mother, Dedri Lentz Minutolo, launched the drive in memory of the a former Science Hill High School and Milligan College cheerleader who died unexpectedly from complications of juvenile diabetes.

Amanda loved shoes and she loved helping others, particularly children. And so Ms. Dee, as she is known to students at South Side School Elementary, gathers shoes for the homeless education program throughout the year and takes the drive public every August in honor of Amanda’s Aug. 10 birthday.

Over the past four years, Dedri said the drive has become a back-to-school tradition for many friends who knew Amanda, for many others who only knew of her through the shoe drive and for many children who enjoy picking out the shoes they like for other kids who need them.

Dedri cannot tell you how many shoes have been donated and delivered to school system’s central office so far this summer. She only knows the number is large and that the need is even larger.

In recent years, more than 500 students have come through program in the course of a school year. According to White, the number declined slightly last year, in part due to changes in the reporting requirements, but still exceeded 400 students, including about 350 who were homeless and about 70 who were in foster care.

The immediate need is for new tennis shoes and soon it will be for warm shoes and boots — in sizes ranging from small children all the way through young women and men. White said black tennis shoes with non-slip soles for older students with restaurant jobs are always needed and always helpful.

According to White, the homeless program currently has three to four pairs of shoes in most sizes except 10, 11, 12 and 1-3 for pre-K through third-grade boys and girls and size 8 and up for high school students.

Those who wish to contribute, donations of new shoes only may be dropped Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at South Side Elementary at 1011 Southwest Ave., or from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Central School Office at 100 E. Maple St.

More information about the shoe drive may be obtained by contacting Dedri Minutolo by email at dminitoes@gmail.com or minutolod@jcschools.org.

If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at 423-722-0538, slegg@johnsoncitypress.com or P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605.

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