By Steven Penn
Danville North Elementary School recently participated in the “Recycle Heart and Sole” shoe drive to collect footwear for third world countries.
The program is hosted by the Hendricks County Solid Waste Management District and second-grade teacher Judy Warner acts as the facilitator for the drive at North Elementary.
“The Hendricks Solid Waste Management actually runs the program,” Warner said. “I’m just more of a facilitator here at North Elementary. I put out the signs and then our classroom helps pick up the shoes and puts them in the bags. The Hendricks Solid Waste Management, they provide this program for all of Hendricks County.”
She said North Elementary has been participating in the drive for a handful of years.
“We’ve done this program for a number of years,” Warner said. “The shoes are all shipped to countries where they may not have supportive shoes at all.”
Warner said she feels it’s important to give students a real-world experience of helping those less fortunate.
“Helping others is a great life skill for the school and the kids to have,” she said. “I want to facilitate that and show kids that ... this is a great cause for people all over the world. It not only helps others, but makes us feel better as well.”
She said North Elementary ended up with 326 pairs of shoes, with one student bringing in 160 pairs.
Amy Sieferman, outreach coordinator for Hendricks County Solid
Waste Management, said it’s important to teach children about recycling.
“For us, it beings with re-use,” she said. “Because re-use is always higher in the grand scheme of waste reduction. We want to make sure that those shoes are not filling up the landfill. It’s a big bonus for us that they get to be re-used and re-worn by people who need them.”
Sieferman said as the shoes come in, they are sorted based on quality, while taking into account where the shoes will end up.
“They sort through them and decide which ones are going to be truly reusable,” she said. “(It’s also taken into account) which climates they’re going to work with, because these shoes go to different places. They go to a lot of different third world areas. Some of them have gone to Haiti, like last year, I think the majority went to Haiti.
Some go to Africa, some go to the Middle East, so it sort of depends on what they’re looking for.”
Sieferman explained that the shoe drive is a yearly program, with this being the fourth.
“We always collect during that week of Valentine’s Day,” she said. “It’s called ‘Recycle Heart and Sole.’ We do it yearly, just during that week. It’s available to all schools who want to participate in the county. This year we had 18 schools (and) we had about 4,000 pairs (donated).”
She added that 4,000 pairs is a pretty impressive year.
“It’s been a pretty good year,” Sieferman said. “We did have one year where we had almost 7,000 pairs, but it always depends on the school system experience, (like) a lot of sickness (could contribute to a down year). For instance, Northwest Hendricks schools had a lot of sickness, so they didn’t get as many shoes. Weather can also be a factor.”
She said overall, the drive is a good teaching opportunity for the children.
“It’s always great to have the kids actually see how much could potentially end up in the landfill,” Sieferman said. “When the bags start piling up in the entrance of the school, that sort of makes an impact. It’s also good for them to get a sense of community and helping others.”
Jill Riggs, Danville resident and mother of North Elementary first-grader Lucy Riggs, said she and her daughter were able to help out on the final day of the drive.
She said she helped the students count, rubberband, bag and wheel the bags of shoes out on a cart to be collected. She added sometimes the carts were so heavy, it took three to four students to push the cart, but overall it was a great experience.
“I witnessed first hand the children’s excitement and eagerness to help,” Riggs said. “This was such a heartwarming experience. I feel so fortunate that the students at North are not only being taught the academic fundamentals to prepare them for a successful future, but also they are being taught to think beyond themselves and the importance of creating a better, healthier world.”