By  on October 19, 2009

Payless ShoeSource is going international with its second annual Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids program.

Through a network of community charities, the Topeka, Kan.-based firm will distribute more than $1.2 million, in the form of 77,000 coupons, toward a free pair of shoes to children in need. The coupons will be redeemable at any Payless ShoeSource store throughout the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and 10 Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador.

Last year, more than 630 local groups helped give away $1 million, or 67,000 coupons, in the U.S. alone.

“The response last year was beyond our expectations and the need was more than 10 times what we could even supply,” said Matthew E. Rubel, chairman and chief executive officer of Collective Brands Inc., which owns Payless ShoeSource. “Those requests came not just from the U.S., but other countries where we also sold and had stores. So this year we first wanted to go back and support our community and then add on additional communities throughout the Americas, where we do business. For us, it’s simply about one thing — doing the right thing for families in the neighborhoods we serve.”

Rubel became inspired to launch the program after the economic downturn, when many Americans had to scale back their giving.

“Like all retailers, we were having challenging sales, but we felt we needed to step up and lead by example and reach back into the community that supported us over the years, and one of the key objectives in doing that was to reach deep into the neighborhoods and make this a grassroots campaign,” Rubel said.

Payless is encouraging all children’s organizations, including local charities, churches and shelters, to apply for coupons at by Oct. 31.

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