Tuesday, June 25, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 16

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 19th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 3 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 3

Local nonprofits distribute hundreds of Payless gift cards before store closures


Payless ShoeSource stores across North America will only be open for a few more weeks, and March 11 was the last day stores accepted gift cards.

The deadline, which was announced on Feb. 18 along with news of the company's bankruptcy filing and eminent store closures, left some local nonprofits with little time to use up swaths of pre-purchased and donated Payless gift cards. Shoes for Students, a decades-old nonprofit that provides families throughout the Santa Maria Valley with gift cards for children's shoes and clothes, was one of the impacted organizations.

Shoes for Students has long partnered with Payless to achieve its mission of providing low-income children with adequate clothing for school, and the organization still had scores of unused gift cards on hand when Payless announced its plans to close.

But with the help of local schools, family and community advocates, and other organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and Fighting Back: Santa Maria Valley, Shoes for Students announced via Facebook on Feb. 27 that it distributed more than 200 Payless gift cards to students and families in less than two weeks.

"We did our best," said Maggie White, board president of Shoes for Students.

It's not clear whether all of those distributed gift cards were actually redeemed by families, White said, and only about 30 or 40 redemption receipts have been returned to Shoes for Students staff so far. Still, White said stickers with the March 11 deadline information were posted in Spanish and English to each of the gift cards, and it often takes a while for schools and organizations to turn in all their receipts. So she's hopeful that each and every gift card was used prior to the deadline.

With those gift cards out, White's focus is now shifting to finding a new shoe store to partner with. The organization, using donations and money made during annual fundraisers, usually buys thousands of $30 gift cards to Payless each year, which are then distributed to schools, homeless shelters, and other organizations that give them to families in need throughout the school year. Students are then able to pick out their own shoes.

White said Shoes for Students would like to stick to the $30 limit, but not many other stores sell shoes that fall into that price range. The organization has looked into working with JCPenney, Famous Footwear, and Sears.

"A lot of the other shoe stores are more expensive than Payless," White said. "So we're still looking for the solution, and in the meantime, the students aren't going without."

Shoes for Students will continue giving out Walmart gift cards to families until the organization finds a store with a larger selection of shoes, White said.

The Good Samaritan Shelter was in a similar situation toward the end of February, and Alexis Nshamamba, quality assurance and training manager for the shelter, said the nonprofit was able to use up a few hundred Payless gift cards before the March 11 deadline.

Every child staying in Lompoc's shelters got a new pair of shoes, she said.

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