Last Modified: Friday, May 10, 2013 6:11 PM
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.