BANGOR – “What an amazing year. Thank you to all who are helping kids have happy feet!”

The words of Susan Snow, a longtime parishioner at St. Mary Church in Bangor and the founder of “My New Shoes,” capture the sentiment of the 13-year-old program and its remarkable success in 2022.

Parishioners at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor, of which St. Mary is a part, donate shoes, socks, and monetary gifts which are then given to children in need at area schools.

“This year, the donations totaled 334 pairs of sneakers, 1,506 pairs of socks, and monetary donations of $2,567,” said Snow. “The kindness will help a lot of children this year.”

While “My New Shoes” originally only served schools in Bangor and Brewer, the success of the program has allowed for expansion as sneakers now go to students in Baileyville, Carmel, Eddington, Glenburn, Hampden, Hermon, Holden, Indian Island, Kingman, Levant, Old Town, Orrington, and Winterport. In addition, shoes and socks will be provided to migrant workers in Washington County where there is a special need this year.

“I really feel like when a student has a new pair of shoes, they stand taller. It helps their self-esteem,” said Joel Bragdon, a physical education teacher at Down East Elementary School in Bangor. “The need is out there, and it’s not isolated to just one town or one community. They’re very grateful.”

Snow started the program after a friend told her the story of a teacher who had bought sneakers for a student after seeing the soles of his shoes flapping in the rain as he walked. She also remembered that her aunt had once told her about a parish in Colorado that had a store which provided shoes.

“I thought, ‘Gee, why can’t we do something similar, but not a store, more of a supplying to all of the students at our parish,’” said Snow. “This is just dear to my heart. I usually get all teared up about it because I just think that we don’t realize what it does to a child to have something they usually don’t get.”