An adult can buy a new pair of shoes and, with care, make them last for several years, at least.

Children can't do that, and not necessarily because they are any rougher with their footwear, but just because they are "ever-growing," in the words of Dawn Lewis.

Lewis is the founder, president and CEO of Shoes For Your Soul, a Merchantville-based nonprofit that launched at the beginning of 2019.

In that time, Lewis said she and her staff have fitted approximately 3,000 kids with free shoes, made possible by the donations of both individuals and corporate partners.

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"We properly size every child, to make sure they're in the right shoe," Lewis said. "And in the right size shoe, they're able to then pick from any shoe that we have available in their size."

Making kids' shoes available at no charge was an idea Lewis picked up from the 2011 funeral of a friend who mourners said would give away shoes to children in need.

Right now Shoes For Your Soul is a mostly mobile operation, but Lewis wants to have a dedicated storefront eventually.

"We would love to have a shoe store right in the city of Camden, so that way the children around the area that cannot travel are able to walk to the shoe store, and get free shoes and socks," Lewis said.

The group fits Camden County-area children from infancy through 12th grade, in the hopes that giving them proper shoes early in life will encourage care for their feet into adulthood.

Ideally, the organization has a goal of fitting young children four times a year, as they and their feet grow.

Lewis said putting children on such solid, literal footing helps them to focus in school, and crucially, uplifts families from economic and financial burdens.

Shoes For Your Soul is continuing to seek donations from all corners. For more information, go to shoesforyoursoul.org.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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