It was all smiles on Wednesday as the staff, volunteers and supporters of the organization My New Red Shoes celebrated the ribbon-cutting of its new space in the new Sobrato Center for Nonprofits in Redwood Shores.
My New Red Shoes (MNRS) helps provide a personalized gift of new shoes and clothing to thousands of homeless school children across the Bay Area during the back-to-school season each year.
The organization previously had its offices in Burlingame, and its shoe warehouse in Santa Clara. Now, their new space in Redwood Shores is bigger than they ever could have imagined, and allows them to house both their offices and warehouse under one roof, with room to spare.
“We are thrilled at having been selected as a tenant at the Sobrato Foundation’s newest nonprofit center,” said MNRS Executive Director, Jennifer Yeagley. “Our new home is more than simply a new address."
"The stable, well-configured space not only allows us to store our growing shoe inventory, but also removes limitations around hosting the volunteers whose support makes it possible to reach the children we serve."
Wednesday's event also served to celebrate the many donors and volunteers who have helped keep the organization afloat the past several years, and serve an increasing number of homeless children each year.
"Our new facility will make a big difference in our capability to reach our goal of serving 100 percent of Bay Area homeless children in shelters by the 2014 school year,” said Yeagley.
Since the organization’s founding in 2006, MNRS has served approximately 11,000 homeless and extremely low-income schoolchildren across San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
Donations of shoes, clothing and gift cards are collected year-round, and each summer, volunteers get together to pack customized gift bags for children from roughly 70 different shelters and foster agencies across the four counties.
"My New Red Shoes provides Bay Area homeless and low-income children with a $50 clothing gift card and a new pair of shoes so that they can start the school year proud and ready to learn," Yeagley explained.
Heather Hopkins, MNRS' founder and board co-chair, said the inspiration for My New Red Shoes came from her mother, who grew up with limited means.
"I was suprised when she told me her story, about six years ago," Hopkins recalled. "She said she was always stressed out each year on the first day of school because she didn't have what she needed to be confident."
Hopkins believes that having clothes that fit, as well as help them "fit in," can make a big difference in helping disadvantaged schoolchildren to be confident in school, and therefore able to focus more on their education, and worry less about their situation.
"When I heard my mother's story, I felt awful," she said. "And I didn't want other kids to feel that way."
Hopkins and Yeagley said, as they addressed the crowd of well-wishers at Wednesday night's ribbon cutting, that they truly believe their new space at the Sobrato Center will give them the means they need to be able to continue to expand and help even more children.
MNRS currently operates on a budget of about $566,000 for the year. The organization has four full-time, paid staff, three non-paid staff, and uses the manpower of about 1,000 volunteers each year - many of them children.
"Getting children involved in charitable acts at an early age, gets them thinking about it as they get older, and eventually, giving back becomes a natural part of their lives," said Alison Berkley Wagonfeld, MNRS' board vice-chair.
My New Red Shoes is now located in the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits at 330 Twin Dolphin Drive, Suite 135, in the Redwood Shores area of Redwood City.
For more information, visit www.mynewredshoes.org.