My New Red Shoes

In a typical summer, Menlo School water polo players would be training hard with SoPen Water Polo Club, headed up by Jack Bowen, Menlo School’s water polo coach and Aquatics Director, scrimmaging weekly, and often practicing several times a day with other clubs to prepare for the fall season. In addition, they’d be participating in SoPen’s community service outreach, which encourages the boys to be engaged in purposes greater than themselves and supports the program’s goal to “Be Your Best.”

For years, Menlo and SoPen players have supported LifeMoves, an organization dedicated to helping homeless families and individuals return to stable housing and long-term self-sufficiency. They’ve prepared and served meals at the LifeMoves Opportunity Services Center in Palo Alto (OSC), which provides drop-in services for single adults. The boys would often leave their morning practices to volunteer at the site and then race off together to another afternoon practice after sharing the meal that they had just prepared with clients at the center.

However, this summer, the shelter-in-place restrictions completely changed how these water polo players have been able to practice, and as LifeMoves continues to operate with limited ability to host on-site volunteers, these high school boys have had to be flexible and find new ways to engage in meaningful community service activities.

Although they are unable to serve meals directly to OSC clients, they are still serving lunches, but in SIP style by preparing and donating bagged lunches, making sandwiches and decorating the lunch bags with messages or quotes.

“Menlo School water polo and SoPen players have been dedicated volunteers for many years, helping serve delicious and nutritious meals to our unhoused neighbors,” said Philip Dah, Senior Director, LifeMoves | Opportunity Services Center. “Despite COVID-19 restrictions preventing on-site visitors, this group of generous young men quickly pivoted how best to support our clients during this uncertain and challenging time.”

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the boys have added to their community service efforts by writing inspirational notes to healthcare workers for My New Red Shoes, a nonprofit that provides shoes and clothes for children and families in the Bay Area and which is currently an emergency responder providing relief to the broader community. “The notes were paired with donations of homemade facemasks and Crocs shoes and sent to local medical professionals, healthcare staff, and other front line heroes,” says Becca Winslow, My New Red Shoes Director of Community Engagement. “During this time of social distancing, it’s imperative that we create meaningful community connections and we’re so appreciative of the support from the SoPen water polo players.”

These high school students are facing a new and ever-changing environment right now, but opportunities like these to engage with their community and teach the boys empathy and resilience are great learning experiences. “I’ve always loved this component of our program’s focus to truly embody our goal, ‘Be Your Best’,” says Coach Jack, who is also a local author and philosophy teacher. “I was worried that this year, given the circumstances, we wouldn’t be able to do this. But due to the creativity of all those in our program, we once again had the opportunity to help those in need and connect to something larger than just ourselves and our work in the pool and classroom. I’m really proud of this team, parent group, and school and the work we continue to do to help others.”

As they continue to provide services in these difficult times, both LifeMoves and My New Red Shoes welcome donations.

Photos courtesy of Regina Skinner; Colin Skinner and Regina both contributed to the reporting/writing of this story.

{ Be the first to comment }

Menlo Park sisters offer virtual design classes for kids/teens age 8-16

Freya and Seona Allen (pictured right), who live in west Menlo Park and attend Woodside Priory, are offering multiple virtual design classes for ages 8-16 via Adagio Design Camp. They teach their students the real process of design — from gathering inspiration to picking a theme to creating a final product.  Campers will be able […]

Click to read more →

Piles of shoes shuffle off to non-profit, thanks to efforts by local family and Fleet Feet in downtown Menlo Park

This is a story about how one pair of shoes led to another and another — 92 pairs in fact. That’s the number that the Collins family of Menlo Park donated recently to My New Red Shoes. “Family” is the operative word. “We believe that the way to create a legacy of altruism is to involve […]

Click to read more →

Free concert featuring organist Carson Cooman on June 22 benefits MNRS

On Saturday, June 22, from 4:00-5:30 pm, Christ Church Portola Valley (815 Portola Road, Portola Valley) will present a free concert with renowned modernist organist Carson Cooman benefiting My New Red Shoes. This family friendly concert will be followed by a wine and appetizer reception including free childcare and children’s activities. Donations and donated shoes […]

Click to read more →

Girls and boys take to the pool to raise money for non-profit My New Red Shoes

Dozens of boys and girls jumped into the Upper Pool at Ladera Oaks Friday afternoon, swimming laps to raise money for My New Red Shoes. The kids secured pledges for each lap swum or by flat donations for participating in the event, according to MNRS philanthropic advisor Sue Sutherland. “The goal is for each child […]

Click to read more →

Menlo Masters swim team holds meet to benefit My New Red Shoes

Menlo Masters, one of the largest masters swim teams in Northern California, will host the Blue, Gold & Red Intrasquad Meet, benefiting My New Red Shoes on April 28 from 6:00 to 9:00 am. There will not only be competition in the pool, but participating teams will compete to collect the most new athletic shoes to […]

Click to read more →

Mother/daughter duo Catherine & Charlotte McMillan are longtime supporters of My New Red Shoes

Menlo-Atherton High School senior Charlotte McMillan just may be the longest serving student volunteer that the nonprofit organization My New Red Shoes has. She started on the ground floor, or rather the garage floor. “My New Red Shoes founder Heather Hopkins used to live across the street from us, and I babysat her daughter Annie,” […]

Click to read more →

Heather Hopkins: Founder of My New Red Shoes looks to the future

Over six years, My New Red Shoes, has grown 10 times, a great accomplishment for the non-profit that supplies homeless and low-income children with a $50 clothing gift card and a new pair of shoes to start the school year. But founder and Menlo Park resident Heather Hopkins is not stopping there. The organization’s goal is […]

Click to read more →

Living life as a junior, the Jenna Swartz way

When Jenna Swartz declares “it’s kind of hard to have fun when you’re a junior,” it’s a simple declarative statement, without a hint of whining. Given Jenna’s commitment to playing water polo and her involvement with a number of charitable activities, it’s a stretch to figure out when the Menlo-Atherton High School student has any […]

Click to read more →

Lauren McGinnis blends love for sewing with My New Red Shoes philanthropy

Fashion, sewing, and philanthropy seem to come naturally to Menlo Park resident Lauren McGinnis. On her own initiative, the Hillview School 7th grader started making cloth bags last fall, which she sells at Angel Heart Cakes, donating $2 per bag to My New Red Shoes. “I first learned about My New Red Shoes when I […]

Click to read more →

Menlo Masters compete in the water – and to collect the most new shoes for kids

There’s a new twist to the annual Menlo Masters Blue, Gold & Red Intrasquad meet scheduled for Saturday, April 2 from 6:00 to 9:00 am. Not only will there be competition in the pool but participating teams will compete to collect the most new shoes to donate to the homeless children served by My New […]

Click to read more →