Payless ShoeSource, announced the launch again this year of its Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids program aimed at delivering more than $1.2 million worth of free children's shoes to families in need this holiday season. In addition, the retailer said it is expanding this year's program internationally across the Western Hemisphere in countries where the majority of its more than 4,500 stores are located.

Payless will give more than 77,000 gift coupons redeemable through Feb. 28, 2010, toward a new pair of kids' shoes at any of its stores located in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and in 10 Latin American countries including the Dominican Republic, Trinidad & Tobago, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia.

“In America the economy appears to be on the mend, but times are still difficult on Main Street and the economic challenges are rippling across the globe,” said Matthew E. Rubel, Chairman and CEO of Collective Brands, Inc., which owns Payless ShoeSource.  “Footwear is a basic need that many of us take for granted, and yet a significant number of children need shoes. In a difficult economy, the underprivileged are hurt more than any other group and the charities that assist them are often underfunded.  That's why we are expanding our Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids program to Canada, Puerto Rico, and our Latin American countries and calling on charity partners again this year to help us establish an extending network to get the gift of shoes to children that need it the most this holiday season.”

A Call to Non-Profits

Through this year's effort, Payless said it expects to give away more than 77,000 pairs of new shoes valued at more than $1.2 million through a network of  hundreds of localized charities.  Partnering with local charities offers a grass roots approach — an important element of the program.  It allows Payless to most effectively reach children that need shoes; it also ensures widespread and diverse coverage in urban and rural areas, as well as assists non-profits during the economic downturn as many charities, especially the small to medium sized organizations, are experiencing reduced giving among contributors.

Non-profit organizations based in the United States and Canada interested in joining Payless in its Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids program can apply at by completing a short online application.  Core selection criteria includes a mission to serve children and families in the local area, direct access to underprivileged children in local communities to distribute the coupons by Dec. 24, and close proximity to Payless stores. Additional requirements call for non-profit organizations in the U.S. to have IRC 501(c)(3) status; Canadian charities must be registered with the Canadian Revenue Agency.  The application process for non-profit partners of the Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids program ends Oct. 30.