French Club puts best feet forward for charity project

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When members of the Franklin Regional Senior High School French Club decided to hold a shoe drive for a service project last month, they were hoping to collect 200 pairs.

But more than 1,200 pairs later, the club is still receiving donations and is looking for ways to ship the new or gently used shoes to those in need in Haiti.

"We didn't think we would collect close to that, it's amazing," said Nicole Lockwood, a senior and club president.

Another collection will take place at the high school's Franklin Idol singing competition scheduled for May 23. Proceeds from the $6 tickets will go toward either shipping or buying more shoes.

Club members decided to help those still affected by the 2010 Haiti earthquake because they wanted to offer assistance to a French speaking country in need. Nicole said she discovered the organization, Soles4Souls Inc. and its Haiti 3 Years Later program on the Internet.

According to its web site, Soles4Souls is a global not-for-profit organization that distributes shoes and clothing in poverty stricken areas. Through its Haiti 3 Years Later initiative, shoes are sent to a carefully selected micro-enterprise group, contracted by Soles4Souls, and then on to small businesses, such as street vendors. The vendors, sell the shoes as part of their businesses and provide low-cost footwear in the community by doing so.

The program helps to create jobs and a sustainable economy, Nicole said.

The charity also supplies footwear to those in need in disasters.

Shoes purchased with proceeds from Franklin Idol will be donated directly to an orphanage or school, still to be determined, also through Soles4Souls.

Soles 4Souls finds the lowest cost options and arranges to have the shoes shipped to one of its warehouses. Those making the donation must cover shipping costs. The French Club has made two shipments so far to a Soles4Souls warehouse in Defiance, Ohio.

Walmart donated boxes and shipping costs for the first shipment of 200 pairs. Some Walmart workers helped the students package the shoes.

The store also permitted the students to pack the shoes and have them shipped from its Delmont location. It's less expensive to have freight picked up from a business than from a home or school, Nicole said.

For the second shipment, donations from area businesses covered the $200 cost to ship a batch of 500 shoes.

After publicizing their shoe drive with fliers and book marks, the students placed collection boxes in each of the district's school libraries and the Murrysville Community Library. To keep pairs together, the students had to make sure each was either tied at the laces or wrapped with rubber bands. Shoes were stored at the students' homes until they were packaged and shipped from Walmart.

"This has really opened my eyes as to how much of an impact we could have on people in need. It's been a really rewarding experience," Nicole said.

neigh_east

Laurie Bailey, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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