It's hard to tell the history of the Shoe Buddy Program without talking about the history of the Kiwanis Club of Ozark Empire Apple sales. In 1950 club members realized that a club grows and is successful only if it is fulfilling a community need and has the funds available to meet those needs. Charter member Omer North (now deceased) presented to the Board of Directors a plan to raise money. That plan was to sell apples on the streets of Springfield to earn funds to buy shoes for the needy children in the city. The plan was unanimously approved. In the beginning members focused on selling apples to individuals in the business district and selling from house-to-house. The plan would require a large number of people; on recommendation of another club member, the club enlisted the help of students from Central Bible College. As time went by, Kiwanians began selling boxes of apples to firms and individuals throughout the city, and at the same time the street sale of the students continued to grow. Later in the 1950's, Evangel College students and Drury College Sororities also participated. In the 50's and 60's successful sales provided money for the club to use in worthwhile projects. In the 1970's the student street sales were discontinued due to increasing automobile traffic and concern for the safety of the students.
2010 marked the 60th year of this very successful fundraiser and the introduction of the new Shoe Buddy program. The Shoe Buddy program was started as a way for someone who did not need a full or half case of apples to participate in the annual apple sale fundraiser. For a $25 donation the club provides the donor with one of their newly developed Shoe Buddy shoe boxes filled with eight apples and a chocolate bar. The new shoe box was designed by club members as a replacement for the damaged or missing shoe boxes in their shoe bank. This year smaller Shoe Buddy boxes with special backers have been provided to apple sales customers as donation boxes to be placed in their community. Using the new shoe boxes as part of the fundraiser has provided the club a great way to increase awareness of their shoe bank. To kick off the first year of the Shoe Buddy program the club assembled 150 Shoe Buddy boxes and distributed them throughout the community. Several local media outlets have already taken notice of the program and have helped the club promote their annual apple sale. One such radio interview can be heard on the clubs new website www.kiwanisshoebuddy.org.
Members take orders for apples and Shoe Buddy boxes during September and October and deliver them during the last week of October each year. Many club members take a day off from their jobs to voluntarily deliver the apples using their own vehicles. The proceeds of the fundraiser are used to purchase new shoes for needy children in the Springfield School District. In addition to buying the shoes, several club members volunteer their time each Wednesday at the SPS Shoe Bank, fitting the children who are referred by their school