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A Farmington project with plenty of sole

A group of Farmington Youth Development students took 900 pairs of shoes to a distribution center in Iowa last spring as part of the Soles4Souls shoe collection project. This year, Youth Development hopes to collect more than 1,000 pairs of shoes.

Like many young women, Sydney Bockelman really loves shoes.

Only, the Farmington High School junior loves shoes for a different reason than most.

Bockelman is the chairman of the Soles4Souls drive that will be held as part of the upcoming Games for Change event at FHS. She’s looking for as many pairs of shoes as she can get her hands on.

This is the second year for Soles4Souls, a project that provides shoes for people in Third World countries. There are a few steps in the process, so to speak, that benefit others along the way, too.

Soles4Souls is held as part of Games for Change, both projects of the District 192 Youth Development program through community education. Last year, Bockelman hoped to collect 500 pairs of shoes through the drive. When it was all said and done, though, 900 pairs of shoes — and a few miscellaneous single shoes — had been turned in.

The shoes were counted and paired up as an activity during the overnight student lock-in. A few weeks later, Bockelman, Youth Development advisor Marianne Feely and a few other students loaded up 900 pairs of shoes and headed to a place called Village Northwest Unlimited in Sheldon, Iowa.

Village Northwest Unlimited is a community for individuals age 17 and older who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. It was there Bockelman and Feely first saw the impact of last year’s shoe collection.

The residents at VNU help sort and distribute the shoes as something of a job. They package the shoes and send the donations along to the next destination. It was, Bockelman said, a very inspirational trip.

“It was way more than I thought it was going to be,” she said. “It was really neat. I didn’t know the whole community aspect to it, which was awesome.”

That was the last time Bockelman saw the 900 pairs of shoes collected in 2013. But it wasn’t the last time she thought about what good those shoes can do.

Bockelman did her first shoe drive when she was in fifth grade, after reading some statistics about children in Third World countries not being able to afford shoes. Over the years, she’s done hours of research on what shoes can do to help end poverty, get kids into schools and help fight disease.

“Soles4Souls helps get shoes to those children and that can hopefully break that cycle of poverty someday,” she said.

Every time she reads something else, her resolve to help becomes stronger. That’s why this year, Bockelman is planning the second annual Soles4Souls event, scheduled to begin after spring break.

From Monday, March 17 through Friday, April 4, collection boxes will be set up at Farmington High School, Dodge and Boeckman middle schools, and Riverview Elementary School. Bockelman hopes to get boxes out in local businesses, too.

Her goal this year is to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes. She’s got about 50 pairs ready, but she hopes the community can help her reach this year’s goal.

“I feel like you can give up just one pair of shoes to help,” Bockelman said.

The shoes can come in all sizes, styles or colors — tennis shoes, dress shoes, flip flops or boots. They’ll even accept shoes that are missing mates.

The shoes will be paired up and counted during the April 4 Games for Change event at FHS.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding. It’s been a neat experience,” she said.

Businesses or organizations that would like to help collect shoes can call Marianne Feely at 651-460-3207. Boxes will be delivered March 17.

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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