Jefferson Award Winner: Jerry Hudgins

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Highlighting Local Volunteers

The Jefferson Awards engages the Partners in our communities to highlight local volunteers. The goal is to spotlight the great work they do and to inspire our community to put their service ideas into action.

From the 2019-2020 Honorees, a local panel of judges select one winner that will travel to Washington, DC. to represent Northeast Kansas.  From the nationwide winners, one will be selected for the national Jefferson Award.

For the last three and a half years, Jerry Hudgins has been giving away new sneakers to kids in need.

“For some of these kids we deal with, it might be the only new thing they get for the whole year,” said Hudgins. “I compare it to like Christmas morning.”

It all started when Jerry realized there was no organization dedicated to making sure kids in the Topeka area had shoes.

So he started an organization called Sole Reason, a catchy name that has an ever catchier motto.

“Putting sneakers on their feet and smiles on their faces — that’s been our motto since day one,” said Hudgins.

Hudgins collects all the shoes through sneaker drives, donations, and grants.

Since starting Sole Reason, Jerry estimates he’s given away around 4,500 pairs of shoes, by giving them away at shoe drives, to just hearing of a kid in need after getting a call from a school social worker like Tuana Cornell.

“I’ve coined him my shoe guy, so whenever I see a kid that looks like they’re in need of shoes I’ll call the family, makes sure it’s okay that we help them out and then give Jerry a call and put in a request for shoes,” said Cornell. “He’s fantastic, their organization is phenomenal, within 24 to 48 hours he’s always here with a pair of shoes.”

Especially given that this isn’t even his Hudgin’s job. It’s just something he does in the spare time when he’s not working nearly 80 hours a week at a factory or helping to take care of his three kids.

KSNT News Evening Anchor Brooke Lennington said she just had to know what pushes him.

“After I pushed him enough–he finally cracked,” said Lennington. 

“Here’s your story, you want a story for the news, here’s your story,” said Hudgins. “My kid was involved in a pretty serious accident and I made a promise to god that if he heals my son, makes him better then I’ll dedicate the rest of my life helping these kids with shoes. And that’s pretty much why I do it in a nutshell.”

And it’s a promise he’s kept 4,500 times now and counting. 

To learn more about how you can help Jerry with his mission, click HERE.
 

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