Donated shoes to fund water purification projects in Kenya

By By Jordan Gribble / Special to the American Press

An 18-wheeler will leave Lake Charles today hauling not the chemical by-products of local refineries, machinery or lumber

but instead will hold more than 22,000 pairs of used shoes.

From high heels and boots to flip flops and waders, shoes were collected by a local woman to be refurbished and sold to fund

water purification projects in Kenya that will provide more than 100,000 people with access to clean water.

It has taken the better part of two years to collect enough shoes to warrant the 18-wheeler, but organizer Becky Girola said

that community members were happy to get involved and saw it as a good reason to clean out their closets.

“When I first started, I didn’t think

22,000 pairs of shoes was that many to have to collect, but when I

really started doing

it and saw what a thousand pairs of shoes looked like, what five

thousand pairs of shoes looked like, I finally realized how

many shoes I needed. I’ve been so grateful for all the people who

have been able to help out and bring me a carload of shoes,

and for businesses, schools and organizations who have held shoe

drives. A lot of different people have come together to get

me that big number of 22,000 pairs of shoes,” Girola said.

The shoes became so numerous that

Girola’s double-car garage could no longer contain them, prompting a

friend to offer up

the use of his warehouse for the project. The warehouse is now

known as the Shoe Shop which Girola said is filled from floor

to ceiling with shoes.

“We’ve gotten slippers, roller blades, waders, but most of the shoes are flip flops and tennis shoes. It was kind of fun opening

all of them to be counted and paired, I opened one bag and it was nothing but 20 pairs of red high heels. I even found one

pair of thigh high, pink suede boots that I thought must have been for a Halloween costume. It was funny to see all of the

different personalities that shoes have,” she said.

Girola said the shoes which will be sold to a reseller will fetch anywhere between 50 cents and a dollar a pair, earning the

Shoes 4 Water organization, a ministry of the Global Christian Fellowship, enough to purchase at least 11 water purifiers

to be distributed to Kenyan villages.

“Each water purifier costs $1,000 and

it will purify enough water for 10,000 people per a day. If we raise

enough for 11 purifiers

that’s 110,000 people with clean drinking water a day. That’s more

people than are in Lake Charles. We’ll be bringing the

equivalent of a community clean water and that’s pretty awesome,”

she said.

Girola said that though the initial goals of the project have been met, she encourages people to donate shoes or their time

from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. today at 2741 Edgewood Lane.

“If people want to donate shoes, they can pair them together, put them in garbage bags and put a note on the outside of the

bag denoting how many pairs are inside. I have a lot of volunteers coming tomorrow (Saturday), but we need as many arms as

we can get to load all of the shoes into the truck, so everyone is encouraged to come and help,” she said.