Chekeita Jones, founder of the Kicks 4 Kids Foundation, recently sat down with rolling out magazine to discuss her love for service and future plans for the organization.
What motivated you to start the Kicks 4 Kids Foundation?
In spring 2011, I was working in the Pontiac School district. The North Side houses a diverse group of students which included Hispanic, White and Black. Although the parents were very in tune with their education they were not afforded the ability to concern themselves with their children’s outer appearance, especially those from large families. A close friend owns a very hip sneaker store, Burn Rubber Sneaker Boutique in trendy Downtown Royal Oak, Michigan, so on casual days, I would always wear new and cool sneakers. My students would always ask me, “Ms. Jones where did you get those?”
Spring was quickly approaching and I noticed that some of my students were still wearing run down shoes or ones that were too big or too small. So I just finally said that I was going to get them some shoes. I held a fundraiser at a local restaurant, Woody’s,in Royal Oak and I had friends and family support. I charged $10 for a ticket and I raised enough money to not only get my classroom students’ shoes but every sixth grader in the building and that’s how Kicks 4 Kids Foundation was birthed. In 2013 I held an event for a larger group of kids, around 125 and I said in order to reach more kids I’m going to have to do something different so I decided to create the nonprofit as my platform.
What are you hoping to see short term within the next year? Any changes or expansion you might see?
Well short term, I am looking to add two more board members, get an advisory board together, get some grants, and hopefully, get some corporate sponsors for our annual event which is in May.
So what are you hoping to see long term from the foundation?
Long term I would hope that anytime the public thinks to donate some shoes they would think of Kicks 4 Kids. I would like to serve more kids. This year we’re sponsoring 400 kids. The need is so much greater than the resource. That’s not even like 1% of the kids who are in need of this resource. I would love to do this full time and be able to provide shoes all year around.
What is the vision for your organization?
The vision, honestly, is to just provide adequate footwear and to boost self-confidence. It’s two-fold. I target the middle school child because that’s when you get to know the difference between the haves and the have nots. If you can boost their self-esteem and give them something that they’re proud to wear, that would make them want to go to school with a positive attitude and want to do more. Shoes mean everything to the kids in the community. It’s a confidence booster and it’s something that they really need.
What has been the biggest struggle, so far?
The biggest struggle has just been getting exposure and getting the awareness out. One thing that I love is that I am in the thick of things. If you donate money to this foundation, you see exactly where it’s going. I am going to hold an event and the next day you’ll see me giving out shoes. It’s authentic. You can see everything that I do. When you get to know me and see what I do you’ll want help, but again, it’s all about getting that exposure.
Was service always instilled in you or something that was ignited upon seeing the situation and need?
Well I am an educator, first. There are always so many gaps for things that they need. So that’s just in me. I go out and do things several times a year. I am totally in to service. It brings me life.
Have you had any mentors or individuals that gave you any advice along this journey?
I actually went to a class called Build at the D Hive in Detroit and the instructor there, Marcus Harris, really helped me get my thoughts together and get a strategic plan together. He really helped me put things into perspective. He’s definitely been a mentor. Among other individuals who are doing nonprofit service full time.
So do you have any advice for individuals who might be just starting out in this journey of serving the community?
I would just say that if it’s something that’s dear to you and something you care about just try it out. I wouldn’t say just jump straight into a nonprofit because it’ s a lot of work but I would say get your feet wet to see if starting a nonprofit is something you really want to do. It’s a lot of grinding work. People come to the events but don’t know what all went in to planning and implementing that event. So I would just say try things out. Don’t listen to the naysayers. If it’s something you want to do and God is in it you’ll be successful.
Lastly, if anyone wants to donate to Kicks 4 Kids Foundation or collaborate with you, how can they contact you?
They can email me at [email protected] or visit my website at kicks4kidsfoundation.org. You can donate straight through the website.