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Free Shoes Is Early Christmas Present For 700 Area Students

The Bradleyville School gymnasium was packed out and buzzing with activity on Thursday, Dec. 11, as students and faculty from four area schools gathered, not for a sports activity or school function, but to receive a new pair of shoes.
Through the generosity of former teachers Roy and Nora Slusher – and the Roy W. Slusher Foundation – some 700 kids from Plainview, Taneyville, Mark Twain and Bradleyville got a new pair of Sketchers shoes, provided by Dryer Shoe Store.
For the past several years Jerry Redfern, manager of the Slusher Foundation, and Dale Dryer of Dryer Shoes, have teamed up to provide free shoes to students in Taney County every two years.
This year’s event was even bigger, however, because in addition to shoes, the Slusher Foundation handed out around $107,000 in grants to two dozen local charities during the program.
Convoy of Hope was also on hand to present each child with two bags of groceries.
Through a brief video, Convoy of Hope announced it has given more than $1.5 million to help those in need in southwest Missouri.
David Taylor, spokesman for the Slusher Foundation, said the Dec. 11 event was the highlight of his Christmas season.
Others speaking included Leon Combs, of Bradleyville, a major contributor both to the school and the area community. Combs said he attended Bradleyville School 75 years ago when the bathroom was an outhouse and there was no gymnasium. They played basketball on an outside court in the mud.
Dan Prater, from Drury University, told those gathered at Bradleyville, “You are all dispensers of hope.”
Branson Mayor Raeanne Pressley said, concerning the event, “All of Taney County count your blessings.”
During the program, a two-foot bronze sculpture of Roy and Nora Slusher was unveiled. The statue will stand at the front entrance of the Bradleyville High School in honor of the couple.
It was said that although Nora Slusher had no children of her own, she loved each one as her own.
The Slusher Foundation has given away nearly $6 million to Stone and Taney counties over the past 26 years.
Nora Slusher, who passed away in 2013, used to attend the shoe give-away and would beam as the children opened the boxes and tried their new shoes for the first time.
Roy Slusher died in 1987.
Special awards were presented to Dale Dryer and to Vivian Penncuick, the store’s manager who is in charge of measuring each child for a correct fit.
Bradleyville Superintendent Joe Combs also presented a special recognition to Jerry Redfern, manager of the Slusher Foundation.
Paulette Combs, who helped organize the program on Dec. 11, said Penncuick is “the man” for all she does in making this program a success.