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Share your soles to help others

POSTED: April 27, 2009 3:55 p.m.
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Members of the youth group enjoy a night bowling.

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There are so many things people in this country take for granted, like wearing shoes, for example. Most people in America cannot imagine not having a pair of shoes to wear.
Things taken for granted in this country are considered luxuries to many people in other nations. Shoes come in all sizes, shapes, colors, styles and prices. Most people enjoy wearing nice shoes.
In most developing countries, having a pair of shoes is a treasure.
“What we throw away is like a treasure to them,” said Ruthie Brannen, chairperson of the Share Your Soles program at First United Methodist Church in Hinesville. “When you are trying to survive, wearing shoes is not a priority. People are accustomed to walking and often time ruining their feet.
“Many people have diseased feet and limbs because they don’t have any shoes to wear. Their limbs were being amputated due to various diseases related to not wearing shoes,” Brannen said.
The Share Your Soles was created by Mona Purdy after she traveled through Central America in 1999 and saw children with no shoes. After an American orthopedic surgeon who was also visiting the region told her about the children whose limbs were being amputated because of disease, Purdy decided to do something.
When she returned to the United States, she started the Share Your Soles in Chicago. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide gently worn shoes to those in greatest need around the world.
Since the program’s inception, thousands of people have been helped. Tens of thousands of pairs of shoes have been shipped to Central America, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Appalachia, Africa, Eastern Europe, American Indian Reservations and India.
Share Your Soles has volunteers in 30 states who organize shoe drives and special events. Locally, the First United Methodist Church of Hinesville is collecting shoes through May to send to Africa.
“We are asking people to donate comfortable shoes (no heels). We all have shoes we don’t wear. This is the church’s first year working with the Share Your Soles project. It is part of our mission outreach and the youth are working with it,” Brannen said.
Eleanor Smolen, Brannen’s daughter and First United Methodist’s youth director, said the children in the congregation are excited about the project. “We have about 35 youth and this is one of their service projects. Some of them brought large bags of shoes they got from their military neighbors who are relocating,” Smolen said.
“The First United Methodist Church youth group in Hinesville is very excited about the Share Your Soles project and our ability to help others with a luxury that we take for granted every day. There are so many people who live without shoes every day, which really hinders their ability to attend school or work,” Smolen said. “Many children do end up having limbs amputated due to infections caused by lacerations — all of which could have been avoided by a simple pair of shoes.”
Smolen said she spoke with Purdy and they plan to ship the next two loads of shoes to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. “We are accepting any size shoes for men, women, boys and girls. While no high heel are accepted, men dress shoes are acceptable,” she said.
 The youth are also in the process of raising funds to assist them in going to the Share Your Soles warehouse in Chicago. “We plan to take as many as possible and actually work in the shoe warehouse. During the trip, we intend to do mission work in some of the homeless shelters in Chicago,” Smolen said.
 Anyone can donate shoes. Call 368-2200 for information.
 

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