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Amid Payless store closures, local nonprofit seeking new corporate partner for 'The Shoe Project'

Posted at 5:13 PM, Feb 25, 2019

A Plant City non-profit gives out more than 700 brand new pairs of shoes each fall for kids at 16 schools in Hillsborough County.

GFWC Plant City Juniors has partnered with their local Plant City Payless shoe store for nearly three decades to get the best deals, and largest amount of shoes possible.

However, President Alex Rhodes worries about losing their partnership with the shoe store.

"I'm pretty devastated," she said, "now we have to start at ground zero."

More chain retailers to join Payless in closing their doors in 2019, experts say

Plant City juniors spend all year fundraising enough money to buy nearly $7,000 worth of shoes for kids who cannot afford them.

Rhodes tells ABC Action News they get kids a pair of shoes that will last for the school year because many families in the Plant City area can't afford them.

The national chain is filing bankruptcy and will begin closing stores in March, with all of them closed by May.

Rhodes said without the corporate partnership, they will now need to find a new one, but many retailers can't handle the high volume of shoes they need.

She adds that online retailers like Amazon, are not affordable options for the shoes they need.

Rhodes has spent years buying shoes from Payless for students and knows the best options are the ones with velcro straps, certain brands like the Champion brand seem to last the longest.

She said she stays away from shoes with characters on them in case a student doesn't like them.

Rhodes said along with a new corporate partner she worries she will need to raise more money by next fall to have enough shoes.

Plant City juniors always takes new shoe donations from sizes 13 to 6.

For more information on The Shoe Project, click here.