Best of America

Jacob Rice: Shoe Giver of Tampa

Jacob Rice: Shoe Giver of TampaCourtesy Alex McKnight

Our hero: Jacob Rice, 15
Where he lives: Tampa, Florida
How he helps: Getting shoes to kids in need

Four years ago, after hearing about a boy with a program to give away backpacks, Jacob Rice decided to do something similar for disadvantaged kids in East Tampa. A local social services agency tipped him off that kids’ shoes were needed, and Rice had found his cause. At his first event, a back-to-school night, 72 kids signed up for shoes.

Rice found a local store that agreed to provide him with shoes at a bargain price. It took private donors and a foundation to help, but eight months later, Rice was able to deliver every last one of the 72 pairs of shoes. Now Rice’s nonprofit charity, Shoe Giver of Tampa, works with Soles4Souls of Nashville, Tennessee, a group that collects and distributes shoes worldwide. Every few months, Rice measures dozens of kids’ feet and sends the sizes to Soles4Souls founder Wayne Elsey, who finds the shoes and has them delivered to Rice. Then Rice distributes them to the youngsters. To date, Rice has handed over more than 1,300 pairs of shoes, not only in East Tampa but also in the Dominican Republic and Liberia.

His current goal: to donate 10,000 pairs of shoes. “I’ve learned how important it is to help your community,” says Rice. “When you’re in a position to help, you have an obligation to do it.”

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