This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Four hundred shoes, to keep 400 little feet warm, that's what happens every winter at Lakeview Elementary School; and the staff members who are grateful to receive them for the children who need them, all credit America First with making it happen.
The Utah-based credit union has had a long relationship with the Title I school, and their annual shoe and sock drive - called 'Warm the Soles' - is just one of several ways they 'pay it forward' to Lakeview, and to the community in general.
"Being a part of this program reminds me of a really simple thing in my life that many of us take for granted, which is having a new pair of shoes," America First's Community Outreach Administrator Keicha Christiansen said. "Having a pair of shoes that fit to wear to school is considered to be a very basic part of childhood, but many of these kids wouldn't have that experience without the shoe drive."
Just over 500 kids attend the Weber County school, and approximately 65% of them are on free and reduced lunches, so while a new pair of shoes may seem like a small gesture, for many of the kids who receive them, it's a big deal.
"We have some families, single parents whose children's little shoes are wearing out by that time of year," Principal Shirley Passey said. "And every year it brings me to tears to see how happy the kids are to receive these [new] shoes, and how pleased the parents are that somebody is helping them," she said. "It's a fabulous thing."
Passey has been with Lakeview over the past four years and meets with parents in need of assistance on a weekly and even a daily basis. America First has been with them every step of the way, doing all they can to assist. She praised the relationship, saying that while some companies are in and out of partnerships, America First has stayed with the school for over 20 years.
"They really care about the kids and they show it, so I can't begin to express my gratitude," she said. "I'll be forever grateful, and so will these families."
In addition to the shoe and sock drive, the credit union's staff members also volunteer with afterschool programs such as 'Krypto', a math program; and 'Read Today', a statewide program designed to improve children's reading and comprehension skills.
Julie Trujillo is one of several staff members who selflessly give of their time, and she says the feel-good factor is amazing.
"What's really fun is that they look forward to seeing us, and when they come into the room where we meet, their little faces light up," she said. "I think they enjoy it because it gives them that one-on-one time with someone, that they may not be able to get in the classroom."
With 75 years of business under their belt, Trujillo credits America First's longevity and success to the community, so she and her colleagues are nothing short of thrilled to give back to the community that has supported them for so many years.
"Neighbors helping neighbors, that's what it comes down to," she said. "People within the community, helping and supporting each other, and I'm truly grateful and proud to be part of a company that is genuinely focused on giving back."
To find out more about America First's community projects and to donate please visit the following links:
Warm The Soles: http://www.americafirst.com/about/community-involvement/warm-the-soles.cfm
Other Community Projects: http://www.americafirst.com/about/community-involvement