With Christmas on the horizon, Orlie’s Shoe Drive team members go into the community, working with local schools to hand out new shoes.
Orlie’s is the name of Alex Vigil’s late father, whose legacy inspired the foundation. Vigil, with his wife Nicole, co-founded the shoe drive 5 years ago. After his dad’s passing, Vigil was told of the financial hardships he faced.
“[Orlie] was just a phenomenal dad… At Christmas time as kids, we would always get tennis shoes for Christmas, and we didn’t find out until after he was gone that the reason we got tennis shoes was because when my dad Orlie was a kid he used to put cardboard in his shoes. He told my mom when they were newly married… ‘I never want my kids to experience what I experienced.’” Vigil explained that this was his inspiration to start giving brand-new shoes to families in their community.
On Orlie’s Shoe Drive webpage there are other statements given by the founders to outline why they started in 2018, their journey to fund the drive, and struggles to distribute to those who need it most.
In 2018 there were around 70 pairs of shoes purchased to distribute. Now in 2022, the founders predict over a thousand pairs of shoes will be bought. Families all around Kern can feel at ease knowing their child has a new pair of shoes to get through the year, or until parents can find the time to purchase well-fitting shoes.
Jason Carrillo recounts dropping his granddaughter off at Mt. Vernon Elementary School in November, and he was handed a box. The teachers were excited to share that for months the school and Orlie’s Shoe Drive orchestrated a shoe fitting and distribution.
“It was neat! Back in September [Orlie’s team] came with the help of the teachers, and sized my granddaughter’s feet.” The teachers alerted Jason that Orlie’s team had come prior to his granddaughter’s class to document her foot size alongside her only other classmate at the time.
Carrillo helps out when he can for his daughter who works full-time for the city of Bakersfield. Elizabeth Carrillo was impressed and a bit perplexed to receive her child’s new shoes.
“I was a little confused, like did we have to sign up for this? I didn’t remember hearing about the program,” Carrillo explained. “She calls them her ‘power boots.’”
The boots were Steve Madden, Carrillo was relieved to have yet another pair for her daughter to choose from in case it’s raining or if she grew out of other pairs.
“She said ‘Wow! New boots,’” Carrillo continued. “[My daughter] likes options.”
“Last weekend [me and my daughter] went to a coffee shop and she wanted to wear her princess dress. I just put some leggings underneath and she wore her boots and a jacket. She got so many compliments,” Carrillo remembers her daughter’s latest outfit using the new pair of boots from Orlie’s.
She uses fashion to help express her personality and establish important decision-making skills regarding her wardrobe each day for school. Carrillo stated that it’s important for her two kids to have positive experiences with image, and being able to provide that regardless of cost is priceless to her as a mother.
Carrillo wants to use clothes, shoes, and accessories to highlight what already exists in her daughters such as free-thinking and assertiveness. As many parents can relate, Carrillo’s kids are quickly growing out of items and it can become time-consuming and costly to keep up with new styles and trends for your kids.
“I was surprised it was brand new. I know a lot of shoe drives are new or gently used. So I wasn’t expecting to see Steve Madden.” Carrillo explained how some shoe drives are donation-based using gently used or secondhand items.
“I saw some of my friends that have children posting about their kids getting new shoes at their school… it came timely, not super close to Christmas so they have the ability to wear their new shoes before they get Christmas gifts,” said Carrillo.
Around 4th grade is when Carrillo started feeling conscious of how her appearance was being perceived by her peers. When asked how she would feel if chosen by Orlie’s to receive new shoes back when she was attending elementary school Carrillo stated:
“I would have been so happy. All love to my parents, but we went to Payless Shoes, and only after tax-return season. Payless wasn’t trendy- affordable yes. We went once a year, so that pair of shoes had to last us and go on so many occasions. When you’re little you’re not thinking about that, you’re thinking about how you want the light-up shoes, but then you realize the shoes don’t look cute with that dress…”
Carrillo agrees that organizations like Orlie’s help keep our communities supported and thriving. To help donate or learn more about future events to raise funding check out Orliesshoedrive.com .