Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Group shoes webFrom left are Dr. Gabriel Gambardella, Dr. Meredith Ward, Dr. Eric Kosofsky, Dr. Lynn LeBlanc, Dr. Kurt Rode and Dr. Rafael Gonzalez. 

HARTFORD – More than 260 homeless children and adults in Hartford are now enjoying rare comfort – high-quality, well-fitting shoes and new socks – after attending a foot-screening clinic at a Holy Trinity Church.

The event was part of a new program, “Footwear with Care,” that is providing urgently needed shoes and foot care to Hartford’s homeless community.

The initiative is a partnership of the Connecticut Podiatric Medical Association, Fleet Feet of West Hartford, the nonprofit Community Partners in Action and the Hartford Police Department.

At the recent clinic, Dr. Lynn LeBlanc and other podiatrists affiliated with St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center examined the feet of Hartford’s most vulnerable population for hours, checking for critical foot issues and making sure that new shoes fit well. They also were assisted by their office staff and Stephanie Blozy, Fleet Feet owner.

The group was led by Dr. LeBlanc.

The shoes were the result of the program’s recent “Stuff a Hartford Police Cruiser” event at West Hartford’s Fleet Feet. Along with 400 new and “like new,” high-end shoes, the event raised about $1,200 in donations. For every $25 donated that day, Fleet Feet contributed a new pair of shoes. For the clinic, FootPrints of Newington also gave about $5,000 worth of shoes designed for people with problem feet.

“Healthy feet and a pair of decent, well-fitting shoes have a profound effect on a person’s overall well-being,” said Dr. LeBlanc, a Bloomfield podiatrist.

Other volunteers included Dr. Gabriel Gambardella; Dr. LeBlanc’s partner, Dr. Eric Kosofsky, chief of podiatric surgery at St. Francis; his colleague Dr. Rafael Gonzalez, director of the surgical residency program; Dr. Meredith Ward, a St. Francis podiatry resident; and Dr. Kurt W. Rode of West Hartford Podiatry Associates.

Though homeless people can acquire coats through local drives, it’s a different story for footwear and foot care.

“It’s an overlooked need of this population,” said Brian Baker, assistant director at the South Park Inn, a homeless shelter in Hartford. “These are folks who really rely on foot transportation.” And in bad weather, especially in colder months, the need becomes more urgent. “They are experiencing the elements.”

The combination of being seen by a specialist in foot issues and being professionally fitted with quality shoes was deeply appreciated.

“We would love to see it replicated,” said Mr. Baker.

Future events for the program include summer and back-to-school shoe parties for homeless children and a fall drive for winter footwear.

Homeless people who need shoes immediately may obtain them directly from Community Partners in Action with a referral from their shelter director, a police officer or the community partners staff.

Others supporting the program are Mickey Finn’s; REI; RisCassi & Davis, PC; the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving; Asics; the North Face; Saucony; New Balance; Connecticut Pharmacy; the Podiatree Company; Dr. Brian Courtney of Hartford; and the Simsbury and Windsor police departments.

Monetary donations may be made at www.cpa-ct.org/donate