MARSHALL - Vickie Radloff had heard about a charity organization that collected gently used shoes for those without and brought the idea to the Marshall High School Youth As Resources (YAR) committee, who took off and ran with the idea.
Three sophomores - Nick Evans, Laura Mitlyng and Sydney Prorok - are YAR members who spearheaded the Soles4Souls project, which collected 1,864 pairs of shoes, primarily for people in third world countries.
"It feels great to give back and know that you're making a difference," Evans said. "That's important."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Youth As Resources (YAR) members Nick Evans, left, and Laura Mitlyng sort through the shoe donations piling up in the student services center at Marshall High School Friday for the Soles4Souls campaign to send footwear to third world countries. Through the district’s effort, 1,864 pairs of shoes were collected.
The original sole-raising campaign began as a coordinated relief effort for the Asian tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which netted more than 1 million pairs.
"We are just really lucky here," Mitlyng said. "It's hard to give up shoes, but you have to think about the people who don't have shoes and need them. It's not a necessity for them, like eating and staying alive."
Mitlyng praised the efforts of the YAR members, all 17 of them.
"It's kind of like a family in there, all willing to help out and volunteer," Mitlyng said. "It's helping around the community that brought me to YAR."
Radloff was at a Lions Club pork feed in Milroy when she learned about Soles4Souls.
"They raised over 1,500 pairs in one day," Radloff said.
At first, the trio of organizers were a little overwhelmed at the massive project, but eventually, everything fell into place.
"When we first started out, we looked at where we could send the shoes to and where the boxes could go," Mitlyng said. "We kind of decided as a group that we would send the boxes off to the kindergarten and first-grade teachers to have the students decorate them."
Those giant boxes, decorated with care, made their way to Marshall High School, Marshall Middle School, West Side, Park Side, Holy Redeemer School, Lynd School, Runnings and U.S. Bank, where they began to overflow.
"We're excited about it," Radloff said. "It's our first year of doing it."
Radloff's husband Wayne offered to deliver the shoes - which had to be counted and properly packed - to Iowa, a regional drop-off center, when the decision was made to take the donations there.
"If you ship them, then you have to pay," Radloff said. "If you're donating your shoes, you put a dollar or two with the shoes. But because our Lions Club is willing to drive them down there, we don't have to pay the shipping."
Delivering the footwear to the Village Northwest Unlimited in Iowa also had other benefits. The center trains and employs more than 180 individuals with disabilities, who help with the processing.
"It's not always about getting," Radloff said. "You actually feel better when you give. "
Some local businesses got involved after hearing Mitlyng's public service announcement, including Edward Jones and the Minneota School. Others called her at home.
"They actually came up and asked if they could have a box," Mitlyng said. "I've had parents call me and tell me they have shoes to give. I sent a letter to the principals and they sent them home with the kids."
Some students really got into the giving mood, especially at Park Side, where the highest number of pairs (424) were collected.
"Out at the elementary school where the kids decorated the boxes, one of our members had said that her little brother's friends were hauling in suitcases full of shoes," Evans said. "Before school, they would unload the shoes out of the suitcase into the box. It's great for the community and we're going to help a lot of people."
Under adviser Julie Kent, the student council at MHS also got involved, encouraging motivation by starting "turf" wars between the district office and student services in addition to the promise of an assembly on the last day before Christmas vacation if 800 pairs of shoes - about one pair per student Kent said - were donated.
"Students are really getting involved," Mitlyng said. "It kind of shocked me. It's one of the projects that you're not sure if people will get into, but once it got around, people started bringing in shoes. One student brought in two huge boxes with rubberbands already around the shoes. It's amazing."
With the project coming to a close, only one concern remains.
"We may have to get a bigger trailer," Radloff said. "They really started to pile up."