Toyota kicked off the Baltimore Auto Show this week with a donation drive distributing winter boots and hearty socks to a group of Maryland families through a special partnership with the Salvation Army of Central Maryland.
The “Toyota Walk in My Boots” community outreach project outfitted 200 families in need of warm, quality boots and socks to “protect families from the cold and rain,” according to John Ridgeway, Corporate Manager Toyota Financial Services.
“We strive to help the communities where we live. It’s one to sell a car it’s another thing when you can have the time to go into the community and help others,” Ridgeway said,acknowledging Toyota’s commitment to families who are experiencing financial stress or homelessness.
“There are many times when life can throw us a curveball,” Ridgeway said to families who are guests in the Salvation Army’s Booth House.
The Toyota Walk in My Boots campaign will launch in Detroit and Chicago,in addition to Baltimore, Ridgeway said.The Walk in My Boots campaign donated more than 600 pairs of boots and winter socks and $45,000 to local communities in the two years of the program’s existence.
Toyota’s Baltimore region partners with the Salvation Army of Central Maryland to serve families in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
“It’s quite a supplement to the household. For Christmas, maybe families got a brand-new pair of shoes, said Major Gene A. Hogg, area commander of the Salvation Army of Central Maryland.
“But then February comes and the snow starts and we’re walking. To be able to have a pair of boots to put on and not have to worry about the snow and the slush is so important,” Hogg said.“Knowing that we can depend and count on Toyota every year helps us communicate that message of hope to our clients. ”For Jerri Kelly, the Walk in My Boots event helps her and daughter Jaleah juggle an extremely tight household budget.
“This is one less bill I have to pay. I’m on a limited income and I wasn’t able to afford winter boots. Without this, we wouldn’t have had them [boots] this year,” Kelly said with gratitude.
“Today is a family day. It’s always a good day for us to have an outing together, ”said Denise Penn who participated in the Walk in Your Boots event with her daughter, son in law and grandchildren.
Comedienne MESHELLE, a Park Heights native nationally-recognized talent, reminded Walk in My Boots participants to be open to people from all walks
of life who have something to offer.
“Be real clear. Just because someone looks like you doesn’t mean they’re going to care about you more and just because they don’t look like you doesn’t mean that they won’t pour into you. Be more willing to open up your heart,” MESHELLE encouraged the audience.“I think we’re all here for divine reasons,”
The afternoon ended with families being served by Toyota and Salvation Army staff, as they tried on new winter boots and enjoyed a hearty meal. For
Ridgeway, events like Walk in Your Boots and the work he does to provide financing for families to purchase cars, work together to create holistic, thriving
“I’ve been blessed with an extremely large band width. I’ve always loved cars and cars have been a platform to give me the ability to do other things, like today’s event. Toyota has provided an incredible opportunity for me to help others,” said Ridgeway.