PUEBLO — Not everyone has the means to have a pair of shoes to call their own, and a local teen wants to change that by collecting and donating thousands of shoes to the community.
Her name is Madison Tatinski, and she's a 17-year-old Pueblo West High School senior. She's putting her best foot forward to make all of this happen.
Around the holidays in 2013, Madison thought to herself, "I have so much, so that Christmas I decided to ask for shoes for other children instead of presents for myself, and I did it again for my birthday. We decided that shoes were such a big need and something that everyone has to have to live."
Since middle school, she's been collecting and donating thousands of new and old shoes. Her effort is called Madison's Mission, 1 Pair at a Time.
"I had no idea it would become this big. It started with like 35 shoes that Christmas maybe and now we're over 13,000 pairs," said Madison.
Early on, she partnered with Pueblo Cooperative Care Center to donate the shoes to kids and adults in need. At the organization, there is a Madison's Shoe Corner, where dozens of pairs of shoes fill the racks.
"I would say that 80% of the shoes that we have here come from Madison. I mean her impact on the community is beyond measure," said Mona Montoya, director of operations at the organization.
Over the years, Montoya has worked closely with Madison, and even helped her go shopping for shoes at Walmart once.
"I get emotional because she's touched my heart. To see her giving in the way that she is, it's just selfless," said Montoya. "She could be doing other things for herself, but because of her heart and love for the needy kids in the community, she's touched the lives of so many."
The organization provides food clothing and shoes to people in need, and it's thanks to volunteer efforts like Madison's.
"To me, it says that her heart is full of compassion for the less fortunate in our community," said Montoya.
The shoes have gone to Pueblo schools and organizations in Fremont county, plus they've gone to other countries around the world including Africa, Ecuador, Haiti and Mexico.
"I received a really cool picture of all the kids in Mexico with letters that spelled out 'Gracias,'" said Madison. "There was one time at the Care Center when a lady came in and got a pair of pink, sparkly shoes. She tried them on and they fit, and she smiled and danced out of the center. They said they've never really seen her smile before."
Thank you's and positive feedback like that are what keeps the teen going.
"It feels really good. I am really proud that I'm able to help and like seeing how much my shoes are helping people is really inspiring to keep doing it," said Madison. "It just makes me happy to be able to help.
In order to buy a lot of the shoes, Madison has secured grants and held fundraisers in the community. She says she's planning another fundraiser for the holidays.
She recently collected 400 shoes to donate to Kindred Kids, an organization in Canon City.
There are donation boxes placed in businesses throughout the Pueblo community and also a box at Kindred Kids. In Pueblo, the boxes are located at the Pueblo Cooperative Care Center, Adam's Electric, and Burger King. Madison also has a Facebook page to promote her mission. You can find more information there about upcoming fundraisers and locations of donation boxes.