First Day Shoe Fund


First Day Shoe Fund is a local grassroots initiative founded in 2004 by Valerie Denghel, who was inspired to step up and do something in response to what she witnessed during her volunteer work in Kalamazoo Public Schools. Many low-income families are unable to purchase new shoes because of rising costs and, as a result, numerous children come to school in shoes that are the incorrect size, worn out, and threadbare. And so it began: First there was one pair, and then another, and then yet another, until the basement of Valerie’s home was filled with new shoes for students in need.

The needs of children and families didn’t diminish from year to year, and expansion of the shoe program began in 2006, when First Day Shoe Fund became an official 501(c)(3) and established a board of directors. First Day Shoe Fund provides new athletic shoes to students from Kalamazoo Public Schools and Comstock Public Schools at annual distribution events held in both the summer and the fall. Thanks to a wonderful partnership with Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo, assistance from Kalamazoo and Comstock Public Schools’ faculty, staff, and administration, and support from countless community organizations and volunteers, First Day Shoe Fund has grown into a strong local non-profit organization created through grassroots action.

Not only do new athletic shoes foster self esteem in students, thereby improving their school performance, they also allow students to participate in healthy activities both inside and outside of school. First Day Shoe Fund believes that every child should start school on equal footing. Its goal is to support low-income families by ensuring their children have adequate footwear to begin each new school year. First Day Shoe Fund hopes to improve the lives of young students, one pair of shoes at a time.