Westfield State Students Dominate Shoe Drive

Westfield State students collect shoes to help in fight against global poverty

Attention anyone with a closet:  Those shoes you no longer want are desperately needed to fight the human tragedy of global poverty.  That’s the message  delivered by Westfield State student and Circle K member Rebecca Talamini ’15, who organized a Soles4Souls shoe drive and collected over 880 pairs of shoes to help the poor, and 35 single shoes to donate to amputees!

Circle K Club, a Kiwanis-affiliated organization of university students, placed donation boxes around campus, at Paper Mill Elementary School (with help from the K-Kids Club), and at South Middle School. South Middle School’s drive, led by Dianna Stutzhuk, Shaunessey Lambert, and Elise Urbanski, collected 200 pairs for Soles4Souls. 

The donations were given to Soles4Souls, a global not-for-profit institution dedicated to fighting the devastating impact and perpetuation of poverty. Soles4Souls advances its anti-poverty mission by collecting new and used shoes and clothing and distributing the donations to people in need. Some donations are sold to carefully selected micro-enterprise organizations to support ultra-small businesses in countries like Haiti where there are virtually no jobs to generate personal income.

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To cut shipping costs, Talamini, a native of East Windsor, Conn., drove six and half hours round trip to bring the shoes to the nearest drop-off location in Franklin, NJ.

Talamini first learned about Soles4Souls at an international conference for Circle K in Nashville. There she learned that the organization was looking for colleges to help contribute to their mission to keep shoes out of landfills around Earth Day.

An environmental science major, Talamini was immediately drawn in.

“As an environmental science major, we study the questions about how to make best use of the earth’s resources as well as to examine strategies to prevent unnecessary waste,” Talamini said. “This was an opportunity to take the information we learn in class and apply it to a real-world situation that makes a significant impact.”

According to Talamini, those who receive the donations greatly benefit from having a new pair of shoes.

“For the kids, having a pair of shoes allows them go to school and helps prevent diseases they might catch if they were barefoot,” Talamini said.

Talamini said she feels a sense of pride in her peers for the successful drive.

“Knowing that Westfield State is responsible for preventing the waste sends out a message that the university is becoming more sustainable and going green,” Talamini said. “I hope Circle K continues to host a shoe drive to benefit Soles4Souls every year to help out those in need.”

The shoe drive is just one example of the university’s commitment to civic engagement. This January, Westfield State launched a new initiative called Westfield Engages (WE). Its goal is to build strong, sustainable partnerships with western Massachusetts communities, and to strengthen service, community commitment, and civic responsibility as central to Westfield State’s institutional mission as well as to the experience of each member of the Westfield State community.  An array of civic and service programs that engage students, faculty, staff, and alumni are in place. For more information, visit www.westfield.ma.edu/westfield-engages.

Want to organize a shoe drive in your community? Visit soles4souls.org for information on how you can organize one too!

-Submitted by Molly Watson

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