Knoxville Area Urban League supports students with 19th annual ‘Shoes for School’

Hundreds of local children received new shoes and school supplies Saturday, Aug. 7, during the 19th annual “Shoes for School” event presented by the Knoxville Area Urban League and Covenant Health.

The event at Caswell Park with a theme of “Happy and Healthy Start” coincided with the start of school, which is Monday, Aug. 9, for Knox County students. More than 600 children received shoes, and the organization estimates that about 2,000 picked up school supplies.

“We appreciate our partner Covenant Health, sponsors and volunteers who have helped us send kids back to school with their best foot forward,” said Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. “Breaking down any financial barriers for parents helps students start their semester off right, and it’s all thanks to the community.”

Mary and Jordin Gardner smile during the 19th annual “Shoes for School” event presented by the Knoxville Area Urban League and Covenant Health.

Gary Young, manager of community outreach for Covenant Health, said, “At Covenant Health, we believe in bettering the quality of life in communities we serve, so we welcome the opportunity to continue to serve local families through ‘Shoes for School.’ The Knoxville Area Urban League puts on an unparalleled event every year. It’s encouraging to see the community come together to support our students.”

Sponsors Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and media sponsor WBIR helped host the back-to-school bash. Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee also attended the event and brought a large, refrigerated truck. In an effort to help combat the lingering economic effects of the pandemic and food insecurity, the organization gave out approximately two weeks’ worth of food with fresh produce to each family.

Local organization New Direction Health Care Solutions, its executive director, Cynthia Finch, and on-site nurses provided free COVID-19 vaccinations and educational information to attendees.

Attendees enjoyed food, games, inflatables and free items set up by 27 booth sponsors representing businesses, civic and non-profit organizations, church groups and others.

The event is a community effort that families and volunteers eagerly anticipate each year. Children of families in need underwent pre-registration to receive shoes through nonprofits. School supplies were available to all children.

“There’s something about a new pair of shoes and school supplies that make the start of the year more exciting,” Nichols said. “We’re always happy to spur that enthusiasm at this event year-after-year.”

About the Knoxville Area Urban League
Since 1968, the Knoxville Area Urban League has assisted disadvantaged people attain social and economic stability and self-sufficiency through direct services and advocacy. The League works to provide a skilled and diverse workforce; to increase homeownership; to support economic and small business development, and to enhance education efforts for our youth. The Knoxville Area Urban League is a United Way partner agency and affiliate of the National Urban League. The League’s work and results are evident in the lives of the over 8,000 people it impacts each year. For more information, call 865-524-5511 or visit