Hundreds of Chula Vista elementary school students arrived at school Monday with new shoes and socks.
The gifts came from the third annual Chula Vista Police Department Shoes & Socks Give away, in which school resource officers raise money for the event.
Early in the morning on Feb. 24, students gathered at Payless Shoe Source on Broadway at the Chula Vista mall for the event, which brings officers together with the community, vendors, donors and volunteers to provide new shoes and socks for children returning to school who otherwise can’t afford them.
“Each student is able to go inside (Payless) and they are partnered up with a volunteer,” Chula Vista school resource officer David Martinez said. “Their foot gets measured so they get the proper shoe size and get to pick out one package of six pairs of socks and one pair of shoes.”
Martinez assisted in coordinating this year’s event.
School resource officers work closely with school principals and nurses, as well as counselors from South Bay Community Services, to identify children in the most need.
Students eligible to participate range from toddlers to 18 years old.
“As long as they’re in school then they are allowed to participate,” Martinez said.
However there is an exception.
“Most of the kids come from the elementary schools but we also talk to South Bay Community Services to find out if they have younger or older siblings who are in need and we add their names to the list,” he said. “Also, some of the high schools send in referrals.”
Martinez said that he and fellow school resource officer Roy Vicente, who will be responsible for coordinating the event going forward, would start promoting the event two to three months beforehand next time.
“The more money we get in, the more families and students we’re able to help out with the event,” he said.
Each year, police officers request monetary donations in an effort to at least match last year’s goal.
Approximately $20,000 was raised this year, the most to date.
Thanks to the donations, approximately 900 kids were given shoes and socks, compared to last year’s count of 650.
“This event is very significant due to the fact that there’s a lot of children in need here in the community,” Martinez said. “A lot of the parents aren’t able to afford new shoes for their kids.”
Martinez said that unfortunately students with damaged or tattered footwear can be bullied and sometimes a new pair of shoes and socks can help.
Martinez has been a school resource officer two years and is responsible for the schools, safety of the students, staff, parents and traffic enforcement, with the primary responsibility of counseling students.
Martinez said the position is rewarding.
“It’s good that the kids get to see you in a good light,” he said. “It’s also good that you can help the kids out. There’s a lot of needy kids in the Chula Vista area, especially western Chula Vista.”
Martinez is assigned to the 17 elementary schools west of Interstate 805.
“Currently we have three elementary school SROs,” he said. “The other two are assigned on the east side of the 805.”
Martinez said he recognized students at the event on Sunday who in turn remembered him.
“It feels really good that the kids notice me or remember who I am,” he said. “It’s just really rewarding, especially that they remember my name. When you see the smiles on the kids’ faces when they’re getting a new pair of shoes and socks, it just makes everything worth it.”
Martinez said the event is successful each year due to repeat donors Payless Shoe Source, Sycuan Casino and Eastlake Church.