Children and Youth

Small Steps celebrates 20 years

With roughly 270 volunteers in attendance, local children in need were able to shop to get coats and shoes for the winter as Small Steps celebrates 20 years of operation

All donations going to the 20 year old nonprofit Small Steps, go to county children in need through the purchasing of coats and shoes for the winter. Mary Hubbell, who is the Chairman of the Board for Small Steps, shared that roughly 270 people volunteered at a Nov. 4 event. Hubbell believes part of this large participation was because “you can come and make a huge difference in a child’s life in only three hours,” all while seeing the, “immediate gratification of the child”.

Irma Collins volunteered with her daughter Karina. She said when she was growing up she did not have the appropriate shoes or clothing for the winter due to her family not having a lot of money. This experience inspired Collins to volunteer alongside her children in order to help kids like herself. Hubbell said, “People come back now who shopped when they were kids and are volunteers now”.

All students who are selected to go shopping are nominated by local educators. Karen and Kyla Mead, both repeat volunteers for the event, explained, “There are a lot of people in need. Teachers see the needs of their students every day and nominate those in the most desperate situations. It is very apparent that the money is well spent and the volunteers see the immediate reward for their time." As explained on the organizations website, Small Steps mission is, “to buy warm winter jackets and shoes for 375 deserving children who have been identified by their teachers. When a teacher identifies a child, their siblings are also included in the shopping trip”.

Students who participate in this event are able to get more than a coat and pair of shoes. Each volunteer who goes shopping with the children at the event receives an envelope with one hundred dollars to spend on the child for clothing and school supplies. The one requirement that all shoppers have is to make sure that the child will have a warm coat and pair of shoes for the winter. Any money left over is used to fill the unique needs of that child. Local stores that participate in the shopping portion of the event include Target and Payless Shoe Source on November 4, and K-Mart for a smaller, second event on November 11. All three stores provide a discount on all items purchased at this event and open the store before business hours to contribute to the support of this program.

For the children involved in Small Steps their day does not end once their clothing items and shoes are purchased. After the volunteer and child are finished shopping, they got to multiple stations including a tag removal area, a free breakfast station from the local McDonalds, and lastly a station where the kids are able to get as many free books as they want that are provided by Spring Grove School.

At the event, children happily tried on new clothing items and grabbed books to bring home. Barbara Wind, who is also on the Board of Directors for Small Steps, explained, “Adding books has been an unbelievable addition,” since she continued, “books can be your ticket away”. This event is not just inspiring for the children, but also for the volunteers. This inspiration could be found in both Irma and Karina Collins’ words when they shared that by participating in Small Steps they, “help those in need within our community,” while teaching, “younger generations the reasons why we should be giving back and helping others within our community”. Local 4-Hers and students from Spring Grove School and San Benito High School were helping out as volunteers. 

For the safety of the children participating, all volunteers are screened before being able to volunteer. Local fire and law enforcement are present to show support for the event. As Karen and Kyla Mead explained, “It (Small Steps) is a way to give back to the community and help those less fortunate. It is one of the most rewarding ways to volunteer”.

Volunteer information is available on the Small Steps webpage or contact the organization at 831-638-2111. Small Steps email:   [email protected] 

Becky Bonner

Becky Bonner is a local teacher at San Benito High School who is passionate about sharing things to do in San Benito County.