What would someone do with four and one-half tons of old shoes? That is exactly what the St. Catharine College men’s soccer team collected over a period of eight months that ended in the early summer.
Of course Tim Wolz’s team knew exactly what to do with these shoes as they started the collection project. And it wasn’t to cover the feet of those who may not have shoes but instead to bring something much more valuable to some less fortunate people – clean drinking water.
The Patriot soccer team began the shoe collection project in collaboration with Edge Outreach, a faith based ecumenical organization that protects the lives of nearly 400,000 people each year by providing training, equipment, and project implementation strategies to individuals seeking to address water quality and sanitation issues in developing countries and disaster environments.
The recipients of the St. Catharine endeavor were the people of Haiti, a country rocked by recent natural disasters that added to an already impoverished environment. And it was an undertaking that went far beyond the expectations of Wolz and his team.
“Our goal was to collect 1,500 pounds of shoes,” said Wolz. “We ended up collecting 9,000 pounds. The shoes are recycled and bring about 75 cents a pound. We hoped to collect enough to provide one water purification system but instead we were able to pay for two.”
The unexpected success of the project actually taxed the collection system of the Edge Outreach volunteers. As shoes piled up in the hallway outside Wolz’s office, the plan was to collect them monthly to take to recycling. “Yes, they started coming monthly to get the shoes,” Wolz said. “Then they moved it up to every two weeks and finally started coming to campus every four days. They accumulated so quickly that they considered just leaving a semi truck trailer on campus.”
Edge outreach reported that the Patriots surpassed any previous group in the amount of shoes collected. And that was quite gratifying to those players who participated in the project. “We hope this project will set a precedent for teams that follow us,” said Jonathan Engstrom, a team co-captain from Frankfort, Ky. “Community service is something the campus in general has been doing but now our athletic teams are really getting involved. The soccer team is trying to raise the bar for community service.”
Sheldon Lucas, another co-captain, is well aware of the situation in these impoverished countries.”My dad is from Guyana so I am aware of the conditions in many of the Central American and South American countries. It is not as big a shock to me as it is for some of the other players as to the conditions in which these people live.”
“It really feels good to know that these shoes collected have helped a lot of kids who couldn’t even get a drink of water that wasn’t contaminated,” said Justin Mills a junior goalkeeper for the Patriots.
While the shoe collection was the most rewarding due to its scope, it was just one of the community projects in which the SC soccer team has been involved. The Patriots have served meals and helped clean at The Lord’s Kitchen City of Hope In Louisville. They have volunteered at other homeless shelters and last year they assisted the authors at the Kentucky Book Fair.
Wolz concluded, “The players and I are very passionate about not only being great soccer players but great people as well. This is our little way of improving the world.”
And this Christmas, many in the corner of the world called Haiti may not have adequate protection for their feet. But they will not go thirsty because the shoes collected by St. Catharine College fit just right.