This targeted and meaningful approach to helping struggling families is gaining lots of steam in Long Beach.
By Gina V. Ramsey
When Hali Wolf heard about some students at a North Long Beach elementary school wrapping their shoes with duct tape to waterproof them during rainy days, she had to do something. After inquiring with the school counselor about these students, she was told that other kids were also having problems with their footwear.
“Kids…couldn’t play on the playground because their feet hurt [from shoes that were] too small, or the hand-me-downs were too big, [and they’d trip], fall and get hurt,” Wolf said.
This disturbing revelation inspired Wolf to start the non-profit His Little Feet, an organization dedicated to ‘stomping out the stigma of poverty in our community one pair of shoes at a time,’ by collecting and distributing new shoes and socks to children in inner city schools at risk of being homeless, children in temporary shelters, and foster care services.
“Kids should be able to play sports and run around without having to worry about tripping on their shoes that are falling apart,” Wolf said. “It’s our mission to help!”
According to the His Little Feet website, over 8,000 homeless families without a permanent address have children who attend schools in the district. One of the first visual signs of poverty is deteriorating shoes. Having ill-fitting shoes can cause serious foot problems, from discomfort and pain, to toe and foot deformities.
Also per the website, a child wearing properly fitting shoes has significantly higher self- esteem that can translate into greater school engagement, as well as allow the child to participate in extracurricular and sports activities.
“We focus on socks and shoes because feet keep us standing each day,” Wolf said. “Having
socks and shoes that fit prevents injury and improves lifestyle. School attendance is higher
when kids have shoes that are comfy.”
Since starting this labor of love in 2014, His Little Feet has provided over 17,000 pairs of shoes
to children in Long Beach and Orange County, as well as other parts of California, and Texas;
and in January of this year, they reached an impressive milestone of successfully providing over $1 million worth of shoes and socks.
Through their city outreach events in partnership with local churches, businesses, and individuals, His Little Feet has provided more than just comfortable footwear for kids. They
have also been able to donate backpacks with school supplies, lunch bags, and reusable
water bottles. In the spring, they collaborated with Olive Crest, another not-for-profit organization committed to the care of abused and neglected children, to sponsor a much-anticipated rite of passage for many teens. His Little Feet was able to provide dresses, suits, shoes, and accessories to the high school seniors at Olive Crest for their Glitz and Glamour 2021 prom.
“The charity has taken over my life and is my passion outside of raising my two teenagers,” Wolf said. Wolf, who had been a fulltime hairstylist for over 20 years and is Ms. Long Beach 2020, is now the full-time CEO of this ‘grassroots effort in Long Beach.’ “It’s my passion and purpose. Those who volunteer with us have grown to love serving others through giving the gift of new shoes. I absolutely love everything about it.”
Over the years, Wolf has encountered numerous heartbreaking stories of lack and need that have pulled at her heart strings. Most of the families His Little Feet has helped have been
single mothers with several kids, some with the added responsibility of caring for special needs children.
"These families work hard to get back on their feet after tragic experiences,” Wolf said. “Living
in motels, moving weekly or biweekly, living in cars, trying to provide a space for the school
age kids to study, trying to find work and feed and clothe their kids. It seems like one sad struggle leads to another and poverty is extremely difficult to break.”
But Wolf also sees the hope that is born from networking and reaching out to help those in
need, such as stay-at-home mom Ruth, who is raising five sons, ages 4-12.
Ruth came across His Little Feet scrolling through social media. In search for some assistance,
she was able to get much needed supplies, like diapers, a car seat, and a stroller for her recently diagnosed autistic son, and shoes and backpacks for her older boys.
“This program has helped me a lot,” Ruth said. “And I want to say on behalf of me and my family, thank you for all that [His Little Feet] have given us.”
His Little Feet empowers under resourced students by opening doors to extracurricular athletic programs, mentoring, relationships, and healthy peer relationships at school. We collect and distribute new socks and shoes to inner city schools, shelters and homeless services. We offer children new socks and shoes along with a hand written loving note to bring hope and restore dignity to children facing homelessness in Long Beach and Orange County. A child wearing properly fitting shoes has significantly higher self-esteem which directly results in improved school attendance and better grades. Learn more at hislitfeet.org.