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 third year that the students have sought out used or unwanted shoes for the Tennessee-based organization, said Carlee Cimorelli, who teaches physical education at the grades K-3 school that is located in Lawrenceville.
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. The first year of the shoe drive netted 994 pairs of shoes, and the second year it netted 1,154 pairs of shoes.
This year, Cimorelli has set the goal at 1,300 pairs of shoes.
The shoes have been coming in. In the morning, before school starts, a few children open the bags of shoes and organize them into pairs. They gather them up and place them along the wall in the hallways as they head off to their classrooms.
“The children are excited. They love to see shoes pile up and then lining the hallways,” Cimorelli said. “One little boy in first grade said he is excited to collect shoes to give to people who need them.”
“The children learn that not everyone in the world is as fortunate as they are, and that they can help by doing a lot of different things. Some of those things are as simple as donating their used shoes,” she said.
The Soles 4 Souls drive is continuing through the end of April. There is a box in the lobby for anyone who wants to donate unwanted shoes, regardless of size, color or condition.
The lobby at the Ben Franklin Elementary School at 2939 Princeton Pike is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.