By Celine Klosterman
PELLA — Youths at St. Mary Parish hope they’ve given a break to the feet of people in need.
In June the parish’s youth council wrapped up a six-week collection that brought in a few hundred shoes for Soles4Souls, a Tennessee-based charity that assists victims of natural disasters and abject poverty worldwide.
“It was rewarding to know you helped somebody, even if you don’t know that person,” said Aaron DeJoode, 15. “This gave us a better idea of the need out there.”
He’s among a dozen youth council members who were looking for a service project when an adult parishioner suggested Soles4Souls.
“It seemed like an easy thing to do — everyone has shoes lying around that they don’t wear,” said Mandy Nossaman, 15. “We thought we’d have success and make an impact with this.”
Youths placed collection boxes at locations including St. Mary Church and Pella High School. In mid-June, Meredith Slycord, DeJoode and Nossaman gathered at the church to rubber-band together matching shoes from about 15 boxes worth of donations.
“I was shocked at how much we got,” said Slycord, 18.
A volunteer later drove the shoes to Sheldon, which has an occupational training facility for adults with mental challenges who sort and grade donated footwear by condition, style and size. Shoes not suited for crisis relief —such as high-heeled shoes that a few donors gave to St. Mary’s — go to micro-enterprise businesses to sell in foreign countries, according to Soles4Souls.
DeJoode said the collection gave him perspective. “I might look at my shoes and think, ‘I need new shoes.’ Other people look at their feet and say, ‘I need shoes in general.’”
Youths talked about soliciting donations for Soles4Souls again next year, Slycord said.