When a natural disaster hits, like the earthquake in Japan, people want to help, donate or provide some type of aid but don't always know where to begin. There are a lot of necessities that people need following a disaster, and one local teacher has begun collecting a unique form of relief in the form of shoes.
Kristy Berger, Pierce City elementary teacher and former Monett resident, attended a concert that mentioned an organization called Soles4Souls.
"Something about it just makes sense to me," said Berger. "People everywhere need shoes, and we have tons of them. Why not give a little?"
Soles4Souls has a simple concept: they procure shoes and get them to those in need.
In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that hit Southeast Asia, Wayne Elsey, founder and CEO of the program, felt compelled to do something. He was at home watching television and saw a picture of a single shoe washing up on the beach. That triggered a few calls to some other executives in the footwear industry and the subsequent donation of a quarter of a million shoes to victims in the devastated countries.
A year later when Katrina hit, Elsey called the same group of friends and they sent over a million pairs of shoes to the gulf coast communities. One year later he began the non-profit organization of Soles4Souls.
Berger began the local drive on Monday, March 14 and will continue it through April 11. Collection boxes are located at: Mocha Jo's; The Den; Wintech; Ozark Christian Church, located between Purdy and Monett; St. John's Lutheran Church; First Presbyterian Church; St. Lawrence Catholic Church; New Site Baptist Church; and Monett Community Church. Also participating are three clubs at Monett High School, including, FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), FFA (Future Farmers of America), and STUCO (Student Leadership).
"All shoes are accepted," said Berger. "Every type, size, age group and even flip flops. The organization just asks that shoes do not have holes or are falling apart. They even say if you only have one shoe to turn that in also. They recycle any shoes they can't use."
According to Berger, those wishing to contribute but who do not have shoes to give, can make a monetary donation to help cover the cost to deliver the shoes. Checks need to be made out to Ozark Christian Church and need to be dropped off at Mocha Jo's in Monett.
"Monetary donations to offset delivery cost is also a big help," said Berger. Following the collection deadline date, Berger will either box all of the shoes and ship them or drive them to their destination in Tennessee. The charity will keep a close eye on the increasing need in Japan and will respond accordingly with as many as 100,000 pairs of shoes allocated for the quick response. The organization also passes out shoes in at least 30 states.
According to Elsey, a pair of decent shoes is absolutely necessary in order to participate effectively in rescue and rebuilding efforts among broken glass, twisted metal and raw sewage.
Shoes help prevent the spread of parasitic diseases that plague over 1.4 billion people worldwide, and they are a basic human necessity.
Over 300 million children worldwide are without shoes. Many serious health conditions can be absorbed through the feet, even through the toughest soles. In addition, constant cuts and scrapes to the feet and ankles frequently become infected, and many of these infections can lead to ulcers and worse.
"I love how Soles4Souls makes it very clear that even if you only collect five pairs of shoes, you're still making a difference for five people." said Berger
For more information, call Kristy Berger at 417-669-7009.