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Walt Graham grew up wearing Converse sneakers or on occasion, Hush Puppies. Nobody ever bullied him over his choice of footwear.
But watching a local newscast one morning, The Lee Group President was struck by a woman sharing her inspiration behind a shoe drive for children. Becca Adams, a Portsmouth native and an Air National Guardsman, didn’t wear the trendiest shoes as a kid and was bullied for it.
That’s the reason she started what’s called the Fast Forward Shoe Drive, also known as Cora’s Vision, named for her grandmother, a believer in the importance of community service. With the help of friends and family at first, Adams started by donating 100 pairs of gently used and new shoes to a low-income housing complex in Norfolk in 2018.
Since then, the project has become an annual event, skipping 2020 due to the pandemic. She’s collected 330 pairs of shoes over the years to give away to children every August, so they have them in time to return to school.
“It started with the idea of helping a few families,” she said. “I posted a picture on social media, and it took off.”
Adams’ single-minded determination spoke to Graham.
“She’s an awesome person to do this,” he said. “She took it on herself. She’s one person making a difference, one individual organizing this on her own to help people. That hit me as being really cool.”
His Lee Group colleagues agreed. The area’s premier staffing firm, celebrating its 50th anniversary of being in business in 2021, donated 50 pairs of new shoes to the cause. Contributions were voluntary from employees.
Graham reached out to Adams, who was thrilled to receive his help. “He made my day when he said he wanted to give 50 pairs,” she said.
Shoes ranging from Nikes to Vans still in their boxes were handed out at Deer Park in Newport News on Aug. 14. A nonprofit also supplied backpacks filled with school supplies and a meal to take home.
Adams would love to grow the idea even further with the help of corporate partners like The Lee Group.
“It’s great to see one person trying to make an impact in their community,” Graham said. “That’s something we’re happy to get behind at The Lee Group.”