Jack Larson’s goal was simple: help children.
It started with the students he saw from his home across the street from Lombard Middle School. “He said if I had a child that needed something, that if he could be of assistance, to give him a call,” said Diane VanHootegem, who was the school principal. He provided shoes, coats, clothes, even band instruments to students in need.
What started with one school became Jack Larson Shoe Day for the entire Galesburg School District. Larson fundraised for and organized the event where community volunteers help fit students with new shoes and socks. “It’s just a joy to see, once they put those new shoes on,” says retired elementary school teacher Kathy Hawes, who volunteers to help students find their new shoes at the event. “Very rarely do they want to take them off once they’re on their feet.”
Larson wanted to find a way to make his shoe day mission sustainable and last forever. He worked with the Galesburg Community Foundation to establish the Jack E. Larson Fund. Thanks to the generosity of many community members, First Presbyterian Church of Galesburg and the Elks Club, the fund was able to be endowed, which means that it provides a permanent source of financial support so that generation after generation of students will continue to benefit.
Today, because of the Jack E. Larson Endowment Fund, more than 300 local school children receive new shoes and socks each year, all because of one man’s vision and willingness to make generosity a priority.