11,000 Free Pairs of Shoes Will Dance Across New York

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On the concrete floor, too, stood glittering racks of costumes donated by From Our Hearts to Your Toes, a nonprofit organization founded by Lisa Milberg and her two daughters that collects lightly worn dance costumes. Tara Sansone, the executive director of Materials for the Arts, estimated that they easily had several thousand garments.

“Lisa said, ‘Let me know when you want to come get another truckload of dance costumes,’” Sansone said in an interview. “So we sent a truck out there — we got a truck filled with beautiful tutus and dance costumes from the tiniest to adults.”

Carlotta Wylie, a dance teacher at William A. Butler School in Brooklyn, was thrilled with a set of nine matching green leotards. They would make for perfect forest costumes for an upcoming production of “The Lion King.” Plus, she pointed out, when her students look good, they feel good.

“When I saw the flier came out, I’m like, ‘I need to come,’ because as teachers, we’re always trying to make things happen, always going in our pockets to provide for our kids,” Wylie said. “But this? I’m so excited, the kids are going to be happy to have all this stuff.”

Ron Brooks, Karen Brooks Hopkins’s brother, is a supervisor and buyer for Ocean State Job Lot. Back in December, he came across the thousands of shoes and called up his sister, since she worked in the arts in New York City — she would know what to do with them.

From there, said David Sarlitto, executive director of Ocean State Job Lot’s charitable foundation, the project gained momentum. Maneuvering a 56-foot tractor-trailer through New York City is no easy feat. The question became: What partner could receive the shoes, house them (also a herculean task in the city) and distribute them? Enter Materials for the Arts.

“Folks are mesmerized in many cases to see people who have talents that perhaps they don’t possess, but wish they did,” Sarlitto said in an interview. “Those need to be fertilized; that needs to be encouraged.”

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