Ben Franklin Elementary students are collecting unwanted footwear for Soles 4 Souls
One man’s trash – or in this case, shoes – is another man’s treasure.
That’s what students at the Ben Franklin Elementary School are learning this month, as they collect unwanted shoes for a shoe drive to benefit the Soles 4 Souls nonprofit group.
This is the second year the students have sought out used or unwanted shoes for the Tennessee-based group, said Carlee Cimorelli, who teaches physical education at the Ben Franklin Elementary School.
Soles 4 Souls gathers shoes and sends them overseas to countries in Africa, Central America and South America. The recipients may wear the shoes, or they may set up small businesses – micro-businesses – to sell them to earn money. If the shoes are in poor condition, they may be disassembled and the bits and pieces will be recycled.
Cimorelli said she learned about Soles 4 Souls through a friend who was conducting a shoe drive, and decided to try it at the school. Last year, which was the first year of the shoe drive, it netted 994 pairs of shoes.
“I decided last year to get the students to do it. I sent home a flyer, and I got a huge turnout,” she said. Based on the success of last year’s shoe drive, she decided to do it again – and aimed for a goal of collecting 1,000 pairs of shoes.
Cimorelli contacted Soles 4 Souls about holding a shoe drive for this year. When she mentioned her goal to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes, the Soles 4 Souls representative replied that the goal seemed a little ambitious – “but I know we can do it,” Cimorelli said.
“We registered ourselves with Soles 4 Souls this year. The students have taken ownership and they are a little more excited about it. Last year, it was ‘just bring your shoes to school and we will give them to someone else,'” she said.
The shoes have been coming in, she said. In the morning, a handful of students take a few minutes before school starts to open the bags of shoes and organize them into pairs. Then, the children gather them up and place them along the wall in the hallways as they head off to their classrooms.
“Some children come to school early because they want to help,” Cimorelli said. “They are excited to help other people. It has gotten them thinking about other ways to help people who are less fortunate than themselves. It gives them a little more empathy.”
The Soles 4 Souls drive is continuing through the end of April. There is a box in the lobby for anyone in the community who wants to donate unwanted shoes, regardless of the size, color or condition.
The lobby at the Ben Franklin Elementary School on Princeton Pike is open weekdays, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.