On a April 9, the curved pathway leading to the Graduate Life Center’s entrance across from Squires Student Center at VA Tech was lined with bags brimming with shoes. More than 1,100 pairs of footwear of all sizes, the result of a month-long drive coordinated by the Graduate School’s Office for Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion (ORDI) were headed for a Soles4Souls intake center.
Assist. Dean and ORDI Dir. Shernita Lee and support programs specialist Shania Clinedinst spearheaded the drive as a service project exemplifying Martin Luther King Jr.’s message that people cannot walk alone. “ORDI placed bins to collect shoes in the lobby of the Graduate Life Center, at McComas Hall, and at the Fralin Life Sciences Institute. Blacksburg Baptist Church also collected shoes for the project. By the end of February, the drive had exceeded organizers’ goal of 500 pairs of shoes,” Lee said. ORDI delivered 1,106 pairs of shoes to Soles4Souls at the end of the drive.
“In countries we serve, like Haiti and Honduras, 1,106 pairs of shoes can provide a month of food, shelter, and education for 19 families,” said Stephanie Hathaway, the Soles4Souls’s director of operations for Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Soles4Souls, a nonprofit organization, collects new and gently used clothing and shoes to provide such items to those in need in the United States and other countries. The organization also sends shoes to partners in developing countries where people can sell them and support their families. Hathaway noted in a recent Soles4Souls blog post that finding schools and universities willing to conduct a shoe drive has been difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, but ORDI not only took on the challenge, it blew past its original goal and extended the drive at the request of members of the community who still wanted to donate shoes. Hathaway said the ORDI team and university’s outreach and stories “drove in more donations than they ever imagined. … Their belief in the Soles4Souls mission helped propel this successful drive.”
Hathaway said all donated shoes are sanitized and packaged before they are shared with organizations assisting individuals or with international partners who work with families in need.
“The VT community truly is stronger together,” said Lee of the event. “Without the generosity of each member of our community, this effort would have a reduced impact. I am grateful for the overwhelming support and am confident that we made a difference in the lives of countless others.”