By Christina Calloway
One Portales detective is so committed to collecting money for new shoes, he’ll personally come to your door to pick up your donation.
But before you think Charlie Smart is coaxing people for his own feet, he’s not; he just wants to help the community’s children.
Smart is heading up a new program, A Walk in Their Shoes, out of the Portales Police Department. A Walk in Their Shoes will supply new shoes for area youth who need them.
Smart, who’s been in law enforcement for nearly 25 years, said teachers will be the determining factor of who gets shoes because it’s a common need they’ve identified in their classrooms.
“Everyone feels like these kids are our community,” Smart said.
As schools gear up for another school year, Smart said this problem is one they encounter every year in that many students attend class in footwear that is “worn and tattered” beyond use.
“This is not a bad reflection on parents, these are just hard economic times,” Smart said.
The department plans to solve the problem by fundraising to purchase the new shoes. With each child identified, Smart said an officer will take them to pick out a new pair. Smart hopes to grow the program to reach other children in the home of these students.
“This may go deeper than the child at the school, we want to reach out to the family,” Smart said.
The police department hosts other community outreach programs during the year, such as Adopt-a-Cop and Santa Cop, but this program has been created with the intention to serve year-round.
It’s a program Portales Police Chief Pat Gallegos is fond of, especially because he’s a native of the area.
“I believe this is going to be a great program not only to assist local kids in our area but to show them we’re not bad guys,” Gallegos said.
Smart said he also plans to apply for grants to secure the program and to ask for donations from shoe companies.
Smart said it isn’t uncommon for a teacher or officer to reach in their pockets to help the children they encounter in their line of work.
“We’re human beings, these are our kids,” Smart said. “They’re going to grow up and be our next leaders so we need to invest in them.”
Smart hopes to be able to extend the program to county schools.