Six-year-old Sara Terrell's eyes gleamed as a volunteer from a local church slid a new pair of socks and white gym shoes with pink soles and laces onto her feet. The girl stood up and bounced a little to test them, then nodded enthusiastically to indicate that they fit.
A fashion diva in the making, Sara was unequivocal when asked later if she liked her new shoes.
"They're pink. I like pink," she said. "And they have glitter on them, and everybody knows girls like glitter."
Sara's footwear was presented to her as part of the Soled Out for Kids program, co-sponsored by Fresno Pacific University and Spirit 88.9 Radio.
For the last three years, the two have worked together to distribute a new pair of socks and shoes to every child at select schools during the holiday season.
This year, the college and the radio station provided four schools with nearly 2,500 pairs of shoes with help from various individuals and partners, including Olive Knolls Church of the Nazarene and Every Neighborhood Partnership, a nonprofit that matches church volunteers with local schools. The number of shoes purchased this year was more than double the amount from 2010 and 2011.
Mario Quijada, 8, rocked back and forth on his new gym shoes and peered at his feet.
"They're comfortable," he said, adding that the shoes he'd worn to school that day were a little snug and starting to fall apart.
His old shoes and socks were placed in a plastic bag and sent home with him.
Providing an entire school with shoes isn't as daunting as it might sound, said Bob Croft, general manager and president of Christian radio station Spirit 88.9, which recruited donors from among its listeners.
"It only takes about $12 to buy a new pair of shoes and some socks for a child," Croft said. "That's a small price, so it's easy to do. We can do an entire school for between $5,000 and $7,500."
Roughly 500 pairs of shoes and socks went to Standard Elementary School students on Friday, and Beardsley's entire student body was outfitted with about 300 pairs of shoes and socks on Wednesday. The remaining footwear went to Lawless Elementary School in Fresno and Highland Elementary School in Visalia.
Fresno Pacific selects schools that already have a relationship with a church or community organization so that it can tap into an established volunteer network, said Director of Community Engagement Joan Minasian.
Schools also have to meet a poverty rate criteria. Only schools at which more than 90 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch are chosen, she said.
In Kern County, volunteers went into classrooms in October to measure each child's foot. The shoes were ordered in November, and they were handed out this month.
There were 38 volunteers at Beardsley on Wednesday in a room so crowded with shoes and people that it was hard to move around.
Children filed into the room one classroom at a time and were seated on a bench to be waited on, just like at the shoe store.
Bev French, 71, who belongs to Olive Knolls, was one of the volunteers.
"I think this is wonderful," she said between waves of students. "I'm so glad to be here and be a part of this.
"The kids are a little overwhelmed when they first come in, but after they get their shoes and realize what's going on, they're so excited."
Beardsley Principal Kevin Williams had never heard of the Soled Out for Kids program before this year, but eagerly accepted after he was told about it.
"Well after it cooled off this year, we had kids still showing up in flip flops and sandals with no socks," he said. "When I found out what they wanted to do, I said, 'Awesome!'"
Every Neighborhood Partnership signed on to help out with the project because it saw an immediate and enduring benefit for low-income children.
"The bottom line is shoes are something people need every day, and a lot of these kids, the parents just don't have the resources right now to provide them," said director Doug Sala. "This is something we can do that will continue to have an impact well beyond Christmas."