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Schoolchildren pick up shoes, masks and supplies at Knoxville Area Urban League’s ‘takeout’ Shoes for School

July 22, 2020

The Knoxville Area Urban League’s 18th annual Shoes for School became a drive-through and pickup event Saturday, Aug. 1, after the traditional festival in Caswell Park was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.

This year, the Knoxville Area Urban League arranged for delivery or pickup of more than 1,500 pairs of new tennis shoes and 3,000 backpacks full of school supplies, including masks, in coordination with nonprofit partner agencies. The Knoxville Area Urban League delivered boxes of shoes to participating agencies with storage space; other recipients picked up their shoes and supplies Saturday “to go” at a designated location set up for social distancing.

“A pandemic can’t stop Knoxville from giving schoolchildren the help they need,” Knoxville Area Urban League President and CEO Phyllis Y. Nichols said. “Our organization coordinated pickup or delivery to ensure kids get their shoes and school supplies before school opens. We are especially grateful to our sponsors for stepping up at a tremendous time of need and ensuring that this event could be held.”

Support from the Tennessee Valley Authority, Covenant Health and community sponsors allowed the Knoxville Area Urban League to be able to continue the vital “Shoes for School” program in 2020.

Shoes are pre-ordered by participating agencies who sign up families in need. Each year, thousands of kids ages 5-12 also attend the event to gather needed school supplies. The new event format ensured the children and their families could receive both shoes and supplies in a safe manner.

Nichols encourages companies, organizations and individuals who have supported Shoes for School previously as booth sponsors to make donations this year to the Knoxville Area Urban League at

“COVID-19 changed everything for everybody, but there are some things we can control and this is one of them,” Nichols said. “We are seeing an increased need for support, especially among families, and with the help of our sponsors and our community, we can provide these basic tools for education. We look forward to being back at Caswell Park in 2021.”

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