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FHS Youth Development students see new life for old shoes

Sophomores Sydney Bockelman, Natalie Pellin and Jacquelyn Smithson came up with the idea for a shoe drive called Soles 4 Souls, as one of the projects in the upcoming FHS Games for Change. They hope to collect 500 or more pairs of shoes, which will then go to a Third World country.

Doing a little spring cleaning? Don't know what to do with those old shoes? The Farmington High School Youth Development team has an idea: donate them.

Youth Development will hold a shoe drive called Soles 4 Souls, starting Monday, April 1. The idea is to collect as many pairs of shoes as possible between April 1 and the group's April 19 Games for Change event at the school.

The idea for the shoe drive comes, in part, from sophomore Sydney Bockelman, who did her own shoe drive for kids in Haiti when she was in fifth grade. At the time, she collected about 75 pairs of shoes. While that was satisfying, she always wanted to do more.

Last year as a freshman, Bockelman joined Youth Development's Games for Change planning committee. Games for Change brings teams of people together for an overnight fundraiser. Students, school staff, and even a few folks from the community make up teams to participate in volleyball, dodgeball and floor hockey games. Each person pays $20 to participate, and all of the proceeds go to the Farmington Food Shelf.

But last year, there were more people participating than there were games to play. The food drive raised more than 2,000 pounds of food, and some participants helped to count and box up the food. Another group made several hundred sandwiches for school lunches for Farmington students who needed them, but that only took so long.

So when it came time to start planning this year's Games for Change, Bockelman brought up the idea of a shoe drive. And she wants to surpass 75 pairs this time.

Bockelman and her friends Natalie Pellin and Jacquelyn Smithson researched several shoe donation programs before they found Soles 4 Souls. It's a program that collects shoes of all types, sizes and condition -- even a single flip flop if that's what you have -- and cleans them up and redistributes the shoes in third world countries.

"We wanted to be able to help children in need," Bockelman said. "An estimated 300 million kids don't have shoes and need shoes to go to school. If they can't go to school, they can't get an education, and if they can't get an education they can't ever get ahead and break the cycle of poverty."

Youth Development will place collection bins at several sites around Farmington -- RoundBank, Synergy Dance Studio, Anytime Fitness, Market on Oak, Trinity Terrace, Cow Interrupted, Farmington City Hall and, of course, Farmington High School.

The students hope the community will participate in the shoe drive by donating any and all old shoes.

"We're projecting a major success," Pellin said. "It's really simple to give. Anybody can clean out their house and get rid of their old shoes."

"The goal is to collect 500 pairs of shoes or more," Smithson added. "At least 500 pairs of shoes."

The shoe collection will culminate on April 19, the day of Games for Change. Once the event starts, the Youth Development teens plan to start going through the donations, pairing up the shoes, wrapping them together, counting the pairs and boxing them up. They'll take all of the help they can get that night, too.

After Games for Change, the Youth Development teens and their supervisor, Marianne Feely, will take a road trip south to Iowa, where Soles 4 Souls has a collection and distribution site. They hope to see how the shoes are then sorted and passed on to the third world recipients.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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