Hansen Shoe Fund student with shoes

James Hansen Memorial Shoe Fund

Hansen Shoe Fund helps students one-step-at-a-time

As far back as the 1960s, local donations have helped low-income students buy school shoes

The annual Hansen Shoe Fund coin drive to buy well-fitting shoes for nearly 300 low-income Snohomish School District students will begin soon. The two-week fundraising drive is to ensure students who need a bit of help have a good foundation for learning at school – a pair of shoes.

Each school in the Snohomish School District collects coins from students and families. The Snohomish Aquatic Center is also a collection point, and others interested in helping put warm shoes on cold feet can donate online through the Snohomish Education Foundation website.

Why shoes?

According to one estimate* 1 out of 5 students in this country lacks warm, well-fitting shoes to attend school. Studies have shown the impact of having shoes and appropriate clothing to attend school – attendance improves, students begin smiling, behavior gets better and learning improves.

What’s the shoe fund history in Snohomish?

The Snohomish School District website describes efforts “back in the day” when then-Principal Stan Berentsen of Emerson Elementary worked with PTA parents to collect coats and other warm clothing for students. The Everett Assistance League partnered in the effort with Operation School Bell.

James Hansen was a popular Central School teacher who kept his desk stocked with clean, dry socks for students who needed them. He also packed an extra sandwich every day for a student who didn’t have a lunch. He knew the value of being comfortable in school and how healthy bodies support healthy brains. When Mr. Hansen died in 1983, his wife continued the family support of clothing for students with a generous bequest to the Hansen Shoe Fund.

Once administered through the district, the funds for shoes are now managed by the Snohomish Education Foundation according to the Hansen family bequest.

Over the years the evolving program, now solidly established as the Hansen Shoe Fund, has matched thousands of students with shoes. For many years those shoes came from the local J.C. Penney store. For many students, those shoes are the only pair they have each year.

When you give a pair of shoes to a student who needs that simple item of clothing, you are giving a lot more than eyelets and laces,” says Snohomish Education Foundation president Erin VerHoeven, “You are also giving dignity and hope and a bit of joy.”

What’s the plan for 2021 Hansen Shoe Fund?

Students needing help with shoes now have access to that help all during the school year. School counselors and teachers help ensure needy students get shoes either through Operation School Bell, or a Snohomish Education Foundation Hansen Shoe Fund voucher.

New options for elementary school students open for back-to-school in fall 2020. “We are deepening our partnership with Operation School Bell, this fall,” explained drive chairperson, Kay Ditzenberger. “Low-income Snohomish elementary school students now go to the School Bell site in Everett just for clothing. Starting in September, they will get not only the clothing they need through Operation School Bell, but shoes as well. This makes one-stop shopping possible for those students and means less time out of the classroom for elementary kiddos.”

There is good news for high school students also, Ditzenberger noted. “We will partner with Operation School Bell’s annual September  Teen Retail event. In that event, low-income high school students shop for clothing at Snohomish Fred Meyer with funds from Operation School Bell. This September, high school students will also have Hansen Shoe Fund resources to get school shoes at Fred Meyer.” Dates and details for fall 2020’s Teen Retail are not final. “We will be announcing those when available,” said Ditzenberger, “and working with schools to make sure high school counselors and students know about the program.”

Centennial and Valley View Middle School students will continue to get shoe support through the Hansen Shoe Fund all year long.

“Over the years, as the district’s enrollment has grown, and as our society’s families face increasing poverty, the need for shoes grows,” observed Ken Hammond, Snohomish Education Foundation Executive Director. Last year, 275 students benefited from our community’s generosity. It is likely we will be helping more than that next year and each year.”

How to donate during COVID-19?

  • Online through the Snohomish Education Foundation website

  • At a coin collection site in the office (and some classrooms) at any Snohomish School District school (when schools safely open again).

  • At the front desk of the Snohomish Aquatic Center (when it is safe to do so)

For more information:

Ken Hammond, Executive Director, Snohomish Education Foundation, 360-568-5292

The Snohomish Education Foundation is a 501 (C)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting student success.  As a community-based organization we rely on donors and volunteers to help carry out the mission of fostering learning by providing opportunities to students of the Snohomish School District.

* From Shoes that Fit, a California not-for-profit also supplying school shoes to needy students.

Imagine… every child wearing shoes that fit, without holes.


Jim Hansen Photo ed copy

James Hansen

How the Hansen Shoe Fund works today:

The dignity and privacy of our students has always come first and foremost in all the decisions of supplying items to students in our district.  The students who may benefit from this program have always been protected with processes in place to ensure the privacy of the student.

SEF raises the funds through community efforts.  Those who are directly in contact with students on a one-to-one basis take the steps to make sure the students who would most benefit from the program receive what they need.

The teachers, counselors, principals and staff who are closest to the students make sure the students are cared for.  This ensures that all students with the need for shoes are included in the program.  Students are always protected from any publicity or public disclosure and new shoes are provided to build the self-esteem, warmth and comfort that the program was first established for many years ago.

Original story of how the Hansen Shoe Fund originated:

The James Hansen Memorial Shoe Fund (once known as the Snohomish Shoe Fund) began many decades ago. At the suggestion of Stan Berentsen, principal of Emerson School, some of the PTA mothers started bringing children’s outgrown clothing to school for those in need. This continued for several years, until the Assistance League of Everett took over in the late 1960s when they founded their first outreach program, Operation School Bell. This program became a strong partner in supporting student success and the partnership continues today. Operation School Bell provides much needed clothes for qualifying students. Although the program is able to meet the clothing needs of our students, it is unable to fund shoes. That is where the Hansen Shoe Fund fills the gap by providing new shoes to qualifying students in the Snohomish School District.

As the program became more popular contributions from churches, service clubs, PTA groups, and individuals were donated. These donations were originally made through the District. In 1983, a popular teacher at Central School, James Hansen, passed away. He and his wife, Helen, had been strong supporters of the shoe fund, and Helen gave a generous bequest in Jim’s memory. Mr. Hansen was known to have always kept his desk stocked with clean dry socks for any student who might need them and packed an extra sandwich every day for any student who didn’t have a lunch. He wanted to keep all his students warm, comfortable and ready to learn in the classroom.

Donations made to the Hansen Shoe Fund in 2018 will allow the Foundation to purchase more than 275 pairs of new shoes for our District’s children. For many of these students, the shoes they receive through the Hansen Shoe Fund are the only new shoes they will receive during the year. These new shoes make a difference in a child’s ability to play on the playground, provide warmth and protection from winter elements, but most importantly they provide the child with dignity and self-confidence. Instead of worrying about the holes in the soles of their shoes a child can spend that energy learning.

Since its inception the Hansen Shoe Fund has donated thousands of pairs of shoes to qualifying students. Due to the generosity of our community members, local businesses, teachers, school parent teacher organizations, and our students that empty their piggy banks and pockets each year, the Hansen Shoe Fund has continued to have a greater impact on the educational success and happiness of our children year after year.

Sponsor a pair of shoes for a child today!
little girl making a tie on her shoe