ShoeLady.org is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping needy children have good comfortable shoes that fit. Bill Hoffman, co-founder, started the charity with his wife Melissa Mason Hoffman in 2013. She was involved with several charities before seeing this need. It began with a friend of her grandson coming to play barefoot on a cold November day because he had no shoes that fit and his parents could not afford new ones. She immediately provided him with new shoes. Then, working with two elementary schools, she discovered a surprisingly large need. From two phone calls, there were requests for 85 pairs of shoes.
Melissa Hoffman died in 2016. Bill Hoffman and his daughter, Caroline, have continued and expanded the charity. Originally linked to Christmas, the charity now operates year round. They have 501©(3) tax exempt status. Donors can complete a pledge form online. The donor will receive a Donor Commitment form for each pair of shoes. The form contains specific details of the needy child (provided by public schools). New shoes can be shipped or dropped off at Greg Garrett Realty or Liz Moore Associates. Cash donations are accepted. Participating schools are in Newport News, Hampton, York County, Williamsburg – James City County, Gloucester County and Isle of Wight County. The whole process is kept anonymous.
The name “ShoeLady” refers to Hoffman’s wife. “When she delivered shoes, she was called ‘The Shoe Lady.’ She also was known for her love of shoes. She had a large personal wardrobe,” Hoffman says.
Though recent school closures have altered the operation, Hoffman is determined to continue.
- To date ShoeLady has documented deliveries of 2,649 pairs of shoes.
- The biggest year was 2019, when on one day, 836 pairs of shoes were delivered to 25 schools before the winter break.
- Before Christmas 2020, 259 pairs were delivered to 18 schools.
- In 2021, shoes have been provided on an emergency basis.
Hoffman’s home serves as ShoeLady’s headquarters. There is no paid staff. ShoeLady is expanding its outreach through civic organizations. “We have also received good response from TV interviews,” says Hoffman. Friends and other volunteers help, especially at Christmas. A room in Hoffman’s home is devoted to inventory. “One unexpected frustration is the inconsistency in shoe sizing,” says Hoffman.
Hoffman was born in Norfolk, grew up in Chesapeake and graduated from the College of William & Mary, where he majored in English. His first job was in the shipyard. He now works in industrial construction management. Since the early 2000s, he has been able to work from home. When he was traveling, he went to France, California and Louisiana for companies such as Honeywell, Merck and Anheuser-Busch.
Hoffman calls himself a “homebody” and spends time on maintenance of his 1934 home in Hilton. Recently, he bought a 36-foot trawler. He calls it a “floating Winnebago,” complete with heat and air conditioning. He plans to sail the Chesapeake Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway.
TO THE POINT:
Address: P.O. Box 1054, Newport News, VA 23601
Contact: Bill Hoffman, co-founder