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Soles supplied for souls

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

CHEROKEE – Many souls will have soles courtesy of one diocesan parish.

Parishioners at Immaculate Conception in Cherokee collect shoes for those in need as a Lenten project, Soles4Souls. Shoes are being collected from now until April 6.

Parishioners began collecting shoes during Lent 2010, when they collected 2,135 pairs of shoes. The next year over 1,000 were collected.

“We no longer count the numbers, but the quantity fills a small trailer,” said Sister Janice Hoffman, OSF, who is the music/liturgy director, RCIA coordinator and Hispanic Minister at Immaculate Conception. “It has become an annual project and many people save shoes that they don’t need during the year so that they can donate during Lent.”

She had attended a Cherokee County Ministerial Association meeting where a representative from Village Northwest Unlimited in Sheldon explained the project. She took the idea to the pastor and the liturgy committee, and the project was launched.

“The first Lent that shoes were collected, volunteers counted the shoes each week and the number of pairs collected was reported at Mass each weekend,” said Sister Janice.

How to donate

A notice is put in the bulletin requesting shoes and large boxes are placed in the entrance of the church hall and of the school. When the boxes are full, the shoes are stored by a parishioner until they can be taken to Sheldon.

“All parishioners are encouraged to participate,” said Sister Janice. “Some provide donation boxes at their workplace and their coworkers contribute shoes.”

People are encouraged to donate every type of shoe: athletic, running, dress, sandals, pumps, heels, work boots, cowboy boots, cleats, dance and flip flops.

“The shoes can be in any condition,” said Sister Janice. “If they are worn out, pieces of them can be used to repair others. Even shoes without a mate are accepted.”

The shoes are taken from Cherokee to Village Northwest Unlimited in Sheldon where they provide work opportunities for people with a disability.

“It’s never a problem to find volunteers to take the shoes to Sheldon,” said Sister Janice. “Sometimes people take them in their car or pick-up when they’re going to see relatives or going shopping. Sometimes one person takes all of them at the end of Lent. At times a family stores them in their garage when the boxes are overflowing at church.”

Distributed around the world

From Sheldon the shoes are sent to The World Headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., for distribution to people in need in over 125 countries on five continents, including the U.S., Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Swaziland, Uganda, Iraq, Peru, Thailand and Nepal.

“There are over 300 million children around the world without shoes, and 1.5 billion pairs of shoes lay idle in American closets,” explained Sister Janice. “We continue to give to Soles4Souls because parishioners want to share with people in need.”

She added everyone benefits including “those who are barefooted get shoes, those who donate clean out their closets, those who process the shoes have employment and the landfills are free of something that is still useful.”


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