It's a mathematical question few but the bored, the well-off or the shoe-addicted attempt to answer.
Shawna Ellis and her Italian foreign-exchange student Giorgia Tomba, both 17, pulled out pair after pair of Payless Shoe Source store sneakers Tuesday morning, extolling the various virtues of color, style and function before receiving their answer.
Five hundred dollars, minus some odd change, buys a consumer 29 pairs of sneakers. But none of the shoes will cover the girls' feet. The footwear will, instead, adorn the feet of Carson High special-needs students.
"It makes me feel proud for being able to help other people," Ellis said. "I've always liked helping others. People feel like they're important when they know others are thinking of them."
Ellis has collected $1,240 over the course of her high school senior project. The idea to spend $500 of that money on shoes for special-needs students came from Kim Riggs, homeless advocate for the Carson City School District. Riggs joins with Payless Shoe Source every year for a shoe collection for the district's needy.
"This helps a lot," Riggs said. "It's really hard to get people to buy shoes for the older kids. They would rather buy smaller shoes for a little child because they're less expensive."
More than 60 students still need shoes. To help out, go to the Payless Shoe Source on Topsy Lane and pick a name from the basket at the front desk. Payless Shoe Source manager Autumn Smith is offering 10 percent off each pair of shoes purchased (with sneakers suggested) and more savings available Monday, when Champion sneakers go on sale.
Ellis will spend the rest of her $1,240 to purchase items like underwear, socks and clothing for children in families that Riggs finds for her.
"I'm not done with the fund-raising," Ellis said. "I have other people donating from their businesses. You have to stay on them and make it clear what the money goes for."
Donations came from Papa Murphy's, Rupert's Auto Body, Atkin's Classic Floors, California Gear Inc. and others. A donation box is set up at the Schlotzsky's Deli on Highway 50 East.
"I was very skeptical about raising even my original goal of $1,000," she said. "I wasn't sure I would be able to collect as much I did. But a lot of people when they donate, they donate in amounts of $100. I was very, very surprised."
Tomba, who came along for the trip when Ellis said she was shopping, helped her American sister find the best-looking shoes.
"I think it's really nice of her to help people," Tomba said.
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.
Easter Shoe Drive
What: Shoe drive for needy students in the Carson City School District. About 60 remaining children need shoes.
Where: Payless Shoe Source, 911 Topsy Lane, Suite 118
When: Through first week of April. Purchasers will receive 10 percent discount when shoes are bought.
Call: Kim Riggs at 283-2020 or Payless at 267-1389