As winter approaches, the lack of basic necessities amongst the homeless population in Nashville becomes even more apparent. Namely, a pair of warm shoes on their feet. Two local twelve-year-olds, CJ and Woody, recognize this fact and want to help the Nashville community. These children, with support from Nidhi Kamalesh (‘21) and Sabrina Voeller (‘21), have embarked on a mission to provide new shoes to the homeless.
Inspired by Kerry Wiles, who works within the Cooperative Human Tissue Network division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and her Homeless Helpers lunch program, CJ, decided he wanted to help serve the homeless community, too. He then partnered with Woody, another 12-year-old from across Nashville, and together the boys came up with a plan. CJ and Woody’s project, No More Cold Feet, aims to raise $3,000 over just four weeks to purchase new shoes for the Nashville homeless community.
“One of the boys said, ‘it would really suck to have cold feet,’ and then they got the idea to come together and start this project,” Voeller said.
Despite their ambitions, working towards such a significant goal meant that they would need some extra assistance. Wiles reached out to Vanderbilt professors to see if any students would be interested in guiding CJ and Woody’s plan. Both Voeller and Kamalesh volunteered to help make the boys’ project happen.
“We all meet with CJ and Woody quite regularly and discuss with them, and we try to have them bring forward their ideas and then help those ideas come to life,” Voeller said.
Voeller focuses on marketing for the No More Cold Feet project, contacting local stores to get donations and expand publicity in the area, while Kamalesh works to coordinate donations. Both students take special care to ensure that CJ and Woody are leading the project, rather than taking control themselves. While CJ and Woody recognized that shoes would become even more important for the homeless community in winter weather, they also understood that footwear serves a purpose beyond the cold.
“Yes, it’s important to keep them warm, but also just for their health in general, and then also putting a good image out there for job interviews, or if they go into a store to buy food or anything,” Voeller said.
A lack of shoes can prevent homeless people from getting jobs and even entering stores. With policies like “no shoes, no shirt, no service,” footwear becomes even more crucial to own in order to promote professional development. Due to this pressing need, Voeller and Kamalesh wanted to ensure that anyone who wanted to donate could do so easily, so they created an Amazon wishlist, a GoFundMe and a Venmo for the cause. Voeller said she hopes the convenience of these platforms will facilitate student donations.
“Sometimes shoes can be pricey, like good-quality shoes, so this kind of helps bridge the gap,” Kamalesh said. “The shoes [on our Amazon wishlist] are theoretically lasting shoes that will help them in a realm of areas.”
Despite all the hard work Voeller, Kamalesh, CJ and Woody have put in, they are still far from their $3,000 goal, sitting at $490 on GoFundMe since the project’s inception in late September.
“We’ve gotten a lot more fundraising recently, but we haven’t finished getting the shoes that we wanted, so because of that I think we’re gonna try to continue this even longer [than four weeks],” Kamalesh said.