Like the loaves and fishes in the New Testament, Ray Vidic's boot bargains multiplied.
In 1997, Vidic had the idea of buying insulated winter boots for low-income people when the footwear went on sale at Big Kmart just before spring merchandise came in.
Vidic, an Alaska Airlines customer service agent, was able to buy 20 pairs of $50 Sorrel boots for $100. He donated them to Catholic Community Services.
As he lugged his booty out to the parking lot, "The light went on," Vidic said.
"So I gave the Kmart clerk, Emily Katzeek, my card, and said I would like to buy all the insulated boots the following year," he said. Katzeek got permission from her supervisor, Adam Vogeley in Kent, Wash.
In 1998, Vidic bought 88 pairs of boots all sizes, from kids to adults. In 1999, he bought 280 pairs, "a sizable jump for my pocketbook," but he was getting a kick out of stacking up the bags and boxes of boots in the entryway of Catholic Community Services, where Sister Zeta Simon coordinated distributing them to the needy.
"It was fun. It's a cool thing. I made it a requisite the boots couldn't be sold; they had to be given away," he said.
Early this year, Vidic figured he had his charitable ducks in a row, and would "carry the idea to the next level."
He approached the presidents of the Glacier Valley, Gastineau and Juneau Rotary clubs. They took the idea to their boards, which voted to reimburse him.
Vidic went boot shopping again, picking up more than $8,000 worth of boots for $900. Meanwhile, Sister Simon had handed the job of distribution to Debbie Howard, the agency's nutrition and transportation coordinator for rural communities, who had five or six bags of boots left over.
"The distribution of these boots will make a big difference in the lives of low-income families," Howard said. "This has been a rough financial year for many of our Southeast families. Money that doesn't have to be spent on boots can be spent on other items, such as food."
Meanwhile, Vidic is aiming higher.
"There are Big Ks and Rotary clubs and Catholic Community Services all over the United States, and this is a great marriage," he said.
He hopes Rotarians elsewhere will pick up the idea and run with it.