In 2004, Valerie Denghel was volunteering in the Kalamazoo Public Schools Edison Environmental Academy when she encountered students on a daily basis who didn’t have proper shoes for school. Since many families were unable to purchase new shoes, many students were forced to wear shoes that were too big, too small, tattered, and worn. And so it began.

First there was one pair of shoes. And then another. And then yet another until the basement of her home was filled with new shoes for students. Since there was no sign of the need diminishing, First Day Shoe Fund was born.

Since incorporating in 2006, First Day Shoe Fund has been providing new athletic shoes to K- 5 students in Kalamazoo Public Schools, Comstock Public Schools, and Paramount Charter Academy through several distribution events. With the cooperation of Kalamazoo Communities in Schools, the Kalamazoo Public School system, its faculty, staff and administration, and the overwhelming support of countless community organizations and volunteers, First Day Shoe Fund has grown from a grassroots initiative into a strong, local non-profit.

Not only do new athletic shoes foster self-esteem in students, thereby improving their school performance; these shoes also allow students to participate in healthy activities both in and out of school. First Day Shoe Fund believes that every child should start school on equal footing, and distributes a new pair of properly fitting athletic shoes to those students in need. The goal is to help these students by ensuring they have adequate footwear to not only begin the school year, but help them succeed all year.

Our Mission

First Day Shoe Fund provides new athletic shoes to school-age children in Kalamazoo County who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. We believe that all children should start school on equal footing.