WCU students sponsor shoe donation drive in October

Students in Western Carolina University’s Criminal Justice Club will host a shoe donation drive to benefit people in need during the month of October as part of the WCU Poverty Project.

Shoes of all types – athletic, running, dress, sandals, heels, work boots, cleats, flip-flops or others – will be collected for the Nashville-based charity Soles4Souls, which distributes donated shoes in the United States and abroad.

Shoes can be dropped off in donation boxes in Sylva at Fusions Spa and City Lights Café, and on campus at A.K. Hinds University Center, Campus Recreation Center, Belk 413, Creative Services in H.F. Robinson 401 and the Honors College Office in Balsam Hall 101 during the month of October.

Cyndy Caravelis Hughes, assistant professor of criminal justice, began thinking about hosting a shoe drive on campus while serving on the steering committee for the WCU Poverty Project. The project is a yearlong, multidisciplinary learning initiative at WCU featuring engaged teaching, learning, service and creative and scholarly opportunities centered on poverty, both in local communities and global society.

“I know that money is tight for everyone right now, so I thought that a shoe drive would be perfect because everyone has a spare pair or two lying around,” said Hughes.

She shared the idea with several students, and Tamara Davis Blatt, vice president of the criminal justice club, said members became excited about the possibility of being able to work on an initiative to give back to the community in a domestic and international capacity.

“In this tough economy, it is not always easy for students to give monetarily, but it is easy to share and give that which we are no longer in need of, like the shoes that are cluttering our closets,” said Blatt, a senior majoring in criminal justice and minoring in psychology from Orange County, California. “Like many females, I have quite a vast shoe collection, including sandals, casual, dressy and tennis shoes, and I plan to clean out my closet and give about a dozen shoes of different styles.”

After the donation drive in October, the shoes will be delivered to a Soles4Souls distribution center, said Blatt.

From there, they will be processed and graded, with new and high-grade shoes sent for distribution and lower-grade shoes sent to microenterprise programs in developing countries such as Haiti, Tanzania and Honduras to be cleaned, reconditioned and sold locally, according to information from Soles4Souls. Donated shoes in conditions unfit for the microenterprise programs are sent to recyclers in Pakistan who salvage usable materials from the shoes.