Shoes: part of the basic wardrobe for most of us; but for children in need, a proper-fitting pair of shoes may be a luxury.
“I need a size one and two size threes for a girl,” says Amber Moore. Just by looking at a pair of children’s shoes, she can tell you what size they are. It comes from six years of experience, not from a career in shoe sales, but through a commitment of caring, as she says, “For the cozy-toes of school children.” She observed a need, and by employing a true American Spirit attitude, she created a way to fulfill that need.
Seven years ago and with the help of volunteers, Amber began the nonprofit organization Kozy Toez. “It’s an opportunity,” she says, “to show each child love through a gift of new shoes and socks.” Amber and her small army of caring volunteers fundraise in their communities across southern California, allocating every dollar to the purchase of new shoes and socks for school children in the region. Amber has also accepted new shoes donated by manufacturers for her nonprofit to distribute.
Volunteer Dominique Balverde worked eight hours one afternoon doing what she described as “bagging-and-tagging” for Kozy Toez. “We are preparing shoes to be taken to a school in San Bernardino County – we call those events a ‘shoe drop’,” Dominique says. Volunteers physically reach out and hold the feet of each child in their hands, allowing them the opportunity to show the child love through the gift of new shoes and socks.
Kozy Toez provides new shoes and socks to children in Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, San Diego, and Los Angeles Counties. The Kozy Toez mission is to ensure that all toes are protected, warm and kozy, allowing every child the opportunity to focus on school rather than their worn-out shoes.
Amber tells the story of a child at a La Habra elementary school who asked a teacher for duct tape to fix the one pair of shoes he owned – a worn-out pair of sneakers that were not only falling apart, but too small as well. He walked away that afternoon with three pairs of new shoes, thanks to Kozy Toez. “I never take their old shoes. I did take the taped sneakers to remind me of why I do this,” Amber says.
What began as a simple gesture of kindness for one child has turned into a full-time job for Amber. “I’ve been doing shoes so long I can look at a child’s foot and know – ‘oh, you’re a size one or a size four’,” she says. “I’m doing it because I’ve realized that there’s a need in our community. Kids are going to school without shoes that fit, which means they are not concentrating on their school work.”
Kozy Toez works with schools and other organizations to develop a list of elementary through high school students who are in need of new shoes. One of the organization’s biggest supporters is a motorcycle club known as “Saints MC.” The bikers have donated countless hours and shoes to Kozy Toez and also spend quality time with the children at shoe drops, fitting them with shoes and offering words of kindness.
“I think that we have gotten away from what’s important, and there is a sense of entitlement in America today. We need to get back to the basics, which means not the newest iPhone or Nintendo but learning to help each other. Because if you’re being teased at school over shoes, you can’t concentrate. If I can take away that distraction so they can focus on their education, that’s really important to me,” Amber says.
The former hairdresser admits she had a personal obstacle to overcome in order to make Kozy Toez work. “I don’t like feet, so it’s kind of weird this became my thing. I was a hairdresser, and when I had to get my cosmetology license I didn’t want to touch anybody’s feet, so it was difficult to get that part of my license done. I don’t like stinky feet, but for some reason dealing with these kids and potentially stinky feet doesn’t bother me any longer.” That said, Amber presses onward in an effort to bring smiles to the faces of so many deserving children – stinky feet and all. “It’s humbling, it’s rewarding, and every smile we receive for gifting a simple pair of shoes makes it all worthwhile.”
Feeling good about helping each other – that’s the American Spirit.
Mary Parks, Television Personality, Award-Winning Journalist