Hundreds line up in Kennedy Park seeking free shoes

LEWISTON —  Heather Emerson watched the pile of shoe boxes shrink even as she moved up in line at Kennedy Park Friday morning.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Jim Wellehan, right, of Lamey-Wellehan oversees the shoe distribution on Friday at Kennedy Park in Lewiston. Hundreds stood in line for several hours for the shoe giveaway. Wellehan said that about 2,500 pairs of shoes collected by his shoe stores were given away.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Dereck Gabrielski, 9, left, of Lewiston and Norma Violette of Lewiston search for a pair of shoes at the shoe distribution at Kennedy Park in Lewiston on Friday. Hundreds stood in line for several hours for the shoe giveaway.

She hoped there'd be enough for her children by the time she reached the front.

"I have four kids here, and some of them start school on Monday," said Emerson, 24, of Birch Street in Lewiston. "It'd be really nice to get some decent shoes."

Emerson was one of the hundreds of downtown Lewiston residents to fill the center of Kennedy Park Friday hoping for free used shoes, donated by Lamey-Wellehan.

All six of the Maine Lamey-Wellehan stores have been collecting the used shoes to distribute to Mainers in need, according to owner Jim Wellehan. So far, the effort has distributed 6,000 shoes around Maine, including at Portland's Preble Street Shelter and the Good Shepherd Food-Bank.

"It's really depended on the generosity of our customers," Wellehan said. "If they had gently-used shoes they didn't need, they'd bring them in. And it's good because there is a need all over the state."

Wellehan said he has been storing the shoes in a Good Shepherd warehouse for some time, and he and partners were trying to come up with an efficient way to distribute them.

"We finally decided to just come in and open it up," he said.

Volunteers started handing out shoes at 9 a.m., but lines began forming at 7:30 a.m. Wellehan said organizers brought 2,500 pairs of shoes — mostly women's shoes, with some children's  and men's shoes. At the beginning, each person was allowed to take two pairs of women's shoes, one pair of men's shoes  and one pairs of children's shoes. Wellehan said that requirement eased up as the day wore on.

He said most of the children's shoes were gone within the first hour.

Friday's event was co-sponsored by SeniorsPlus, Healthy Androscoggin, Catholic Charities Maine, Salvation Army, Common Ties and the cities of Auburn and Lewiston. Reine Mynahan, Auburn's Community Development director, said she was already planning for next year.

"If we do this again, we're handing out numbers instead of letting everyone stand in line," Mynahan said. Mynahan said many of the people waiting in line complained that others were cutting line in front of them or ducking under the ropes.

"And some of them are getting mad, so we hand out numbers to cut down on the confusion," she said.

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Mike  Moody's picture

you hit the nail almost on

you hit the nail almost on the head, just a few other forces @ work here...and other places just like the twin cities have felt our pain or maybe not..

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Why picture anyone?

I grew up in Auburn and knew which kids were poor in my neighborhood but they were helped in a nonchalant, dignified way. ANYONE going ANYWHERE in order to receive a free pair of shoes, ought to not have their photo in the newspaper! And stop with the anti-immigrant comments. Who do you think are the poorest people in Lewiston?

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Thank you Lamey-Wellehan

Thank you to Lamey-Wellehan for giving so generously to the community! I have a very simple solution for changing the outcome if this is done next year: 1) charge a nominal fee per family 2) give out numbers, and most importantly, 3) change the location and don't provide free transportation - (or, to be fair, have the pre-showing in a location that isn't on a free transportation route, then have the second showing at Kennedy Park.) I was going to ask why the pictures were changed but it is pretty obvious.

Mike  Moody's picture


kudos to wellahan & company for giving a care. Good job all involved..

Mike  Moody's picture

every Thursday

go down by Kennedy park Thursdays am to see the weekly hand outs you will shake your head ..... when the common folk are trying to deal with rising cost of staying in our homes and raising children pay for college and oh yea float the government , while they [politicians] obviously keep the status quo spending and not that a political REVOLUTION IS AT FOOT.

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needy is needy

The working needy are denied assistance and told they make too much money to receive help. In my opion, working needy should be at the front of the line for any assistance that is available. let's help those who help themselves, then if there are any scraps leftover........

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Additional Photos

So true, yesterday's pictures showed the true story, until comments that were being left, shut down the comment part of this story, and suddenly,new pictures were also added. I won't go into it all again, because the comments will just get closed again. But we know who benefitted from this more then anyone else did, thus the reason why all of the children's shoes were gone in the first hour.

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additional photos

What happened to the additional photos that were originally published with this story? It more accuratly portrayed who benefited from this gift.

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So what's this about people "cutting line" and "getting mad"? Sounds like quite a circus. Drag a gently-used pair if Nike's through Kennedy Park, you never know what you'll find. I guess the food stamps, free health care, and government welfare check isn't enough. They're also entitled to these free shoes, and be damned anyone who gets in their way!

This sounds like the balloon festival - intended as something nice, but ruined for everyone by the Dirty Lew scumbags. Hats off to Wellehan for trying to do something for those truly in need.


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