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A mistake in Skagway made it possible for Juneau's AWARE shelter to provide 120 winter boots to victims of domestic violence.
Tim Bourcy, mayor of Skagway and owner of Packer Expeditions, accidentally purchased 120 pairs of boots for his company that he could not use. When he tried to return them, he found the manufacturer had gone out of business. Not knowing what to do, Bourcy talked to his accountant.
"It would take quite a while for me to sell 120 pairs of boots in Skagway," he said. His accountant mentioned Juneau's Footwear for Families program, founded by Ray Vidic.
Vidic and Bourcy arranged a deal in which Bourcy donated half of the boots and Footwear for Families purchased the rest at a reduced cost, "to kind of ease the blow," Bourcy said. "I thought it was great. It was kind of a win-win situation for everybody."
Last week, Vidic, who works for Alaska Airlines, Max Mertz, an accountant at Elgee Rehfeld and Funk, Annette Coggins, executive director of AWARE, and Mike Dalessi and Leslie Dahl of the Glacier Valley Rotary Club unloaded 130 pairs of Sorel boots from the back of a truck provided by the Mendenhall Auto Center.
The funds used to purchase the boots were raised by several local businesses, individuals, the AWARE shelter and local Rotary clubs.
This is the fifth year that people, businesses and nonprofit organizations in Juneau have come together to provide footwear for needy families in Southeast Alaska.
The project began in 1997 when Vidic purchased, with his own funds, 20 pairs of boots that had been reduced to $5 a pair at Kmart. He donated the boots to the Glacier Valley Baptist School. The next year, he purchased 80 pairs of the clearance shoes, and donated them again.
In 1999, the project became too large for one person to handle. Vidic solicited fund-raising help from Max Mertz, a Rotary club member, and distribution help from Debbi Howard of Catholic Community Service.
"Without Debbi and Max, none of this could happen," Vidic said. Mertz solicited funds from the local Rotary clubs and several others throughout the state. Howard helped figure out who the needy are in Southeast Alaska, and how to best get the shoes to them.
This is Footwear for Families' biggest year for shoe distribution. In addition to the 120 pairs of boots given by AWARE, Juneau's women and children's shelter, the group distributed more than 650 pairs Saturday at Wings of Alaska.
The shoes will go to six Southeast communities: Juneau, Klukwan, Hoonah, Kake, Angoon and Yakutat. Howard, who coordinates the program, said the most important aspect of the project is that no recipient has to pay for the boots.
"It's a gift from the heart," she said.
"This is a community effort," Vidic said. "There are so many lives touched, and not only because of the footwear. Juneau is a sharing and loving and giving community."
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.