Walk in My Boots Provides Insulated Boots to Baltimore Families

By: David Ibata

Jerri Kelly, a single mom from Baltimore, knows what it’s like forgoing one necessity of family life to pay for other, more pressing needs. So she’s thrilled to have received free winter boots for her children as part of a community outreach of The Salvation Army and Toyota Motor North America.

“This is one less bill that I’ll have to pay, because I’m on a limited income and I can honestly admit without Toyota giving us the boots, I wouldn’t be able to afford it,” Kelly said. “I almost never was able to afford winter boots. So if they hadn’t given them to us, we wouldn’t have had them this season.”

Without adequate clothing, those experiencing homelessness and poverty are at higher risk of such exposure-related conditions as hypothermia and frostbite. Hence, the “Walk In My Boots” program, now in its second year involving Toyota and The Salvation Army.

More than 200 people served by the Army’s family homeless shelter and youth clubs in Baltimore received free, insulated, winter boots and socks Feb. 4 at the event, held as part of the Motor Trend International Auto Show-Baltimore. “Walk In My Boots” also has taken place this winter in other cities, including Chicago and Detroit.

Clients of the Booth House Shelter and Boys and Girls Clubs of Franklin Square and Middle River in Baltimore got a catered buffet luncheon, paid for by Toyota, and an inspirational talk by Meshelle, “The Indie Mom of Comedy,” an area entertainer and advocate for girls and women. Toyota also donated $15,000 cash to the Central Maryland Area Command.

“We have boots, and they’re sized per child. These are very high-quality boots, and they’re going to last throughout the entire season,” said Area Commander Major Gene Hogg. However, he added, “It’s not about just giving them boots; it’s about making an imprint on somebody’s heart so they can make a life change.”

John Ridgeway, manager of the Customer Service Center-East for Toyota Financial Services, said, “We really believe that it’s our corporate responsibility to help the underserved of our community. … We just don’t want people to give up. We should always maintain a passion and a desire to improve. Although it may be a struggle today, it can be a platform for success in the future.”

Booth House provides emergency shelter for families in crisis due to a house fire, job loss, foreclosure, domestic violence or other circumstances. The Boys and Girls Clubs serve families, schools and outside agencies to provide educational, recreational, cultural and technological experiences to at-risk youth ages 6 to 18.