By Nancy Vigran Reporter for The Sun-Gazette
VISALIA – El Diamante students are in need of shoes. Not for themselves. For small business owners in developing nations to repurpose. Members of the student body are collecting new or gently-used shoes as part of a Parent, Teacher, Student Association (PTSA) fundraiser.
The shoe drive is already underway, however there will be a big push next week as a part of Kindness Week, said Dawn Vink, a PTSA member. The class who brings in the most shoes during that week earns a pizza party.
They have a lofty target.
“Our goal is 2500 pairs of shoes by March 15,” Vink said. “That is one pair of shoes donated by each student at El D. We are hoping students, parents, friends, neighbors, and community members all donate. The types of shoes can be any size, youth or adults, any type, including boots, and they need to be in pretty good condition, gently worn, or new.”
The PTSA is working with Funds2orgs, a for-profit social enterprise company that works with schools, non-profit groups, faith groups, athletic organizations, and others to bring in shoes.
Why shoes? According to the organizations website, “It started with a single shoe that washed ashore after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.”
The company’s founder, Wayne Elsey, was president of a shoe manufacturing company at the time. He started a nonprofit to help those affected by natural disasters, worldwide. Through that company he was the force behind efforts to raise more than 20 million pairs of shoes for those affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Katrina, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and other natural disasters.
Futhermore, “The footwear collected in your shoe drive fundraisers gives your city or town a socially responsible way to dispose of shoes, which can take more than a lifetime to decompose when discarded improperly,” according to the website.
Shoes collected will be repurposed. Funds2orgs pays the shoe-raising group, such as El Diamante, for the shoes. They then sell and ship them to micro-enterprising individuals in developing countries such as Haiti or India. Those small business entrepreneurs clean-up and refurbish the shoes to sell them.
“Many people benefit from this fundraiser,” Vink said, our organization (PTSA), as well as the small businesses in the developing countries.”
Through various efforts, the El Diamante PTSA raises funds to create holiday care packages, provide scholarships for graduating seniors going on to college or trade schools, and for Teacher Appreciation Week. If you don’t know any El Diamante students, shoes may be dropped off at the school office at 5100 W. Whitendale in Visalia, any weekday through March 15.