Helping those souls that need soles

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE -- In a quaint two-bedroom apartment, 2nd Lt. Coraviece Terry with Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, offered up one of her bedrooms to store hundreds of donated pairs of shoes from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in support of the Soles4Souls Shoe Drive that various Airmen held at the base February through March.

On April 19, seven Airmen from around the base including some from the Airmen Breaking Bread organization, helped Terry bag shoes for deliver.

As one of the points of contact for the project, the lieutenant picked up donated shoes in containers strategically located around the base on average two to three times a week during the shoe drive.

The volunteer Airmen gathered to pair the shoes together and placed them in 30-gallon trash bags. Shoes initially donated in boxes had to be removed from the boxes before being placed into a bag. Shoe boxes then had to be broken down to be recycled.

"The shoe drive went over and beyond what we expected not only in terms of the number of shoes but the quality of shoes that were donated," said Terry. "We advertised for individuals to bring in their 'gently used' shoes, but many people donated brand new shoes and/or very expensive shoes that they could have easily sold for a very good profit."

The bagged shoes, which included some boots, were transported to a warehouse in Defiance, Ohio. Airman 1st Class Mackey Harrington from the 88 Communication Squadron offered his truck and time to get the shoes to the warehouse. The pickup truck bed had a mound of 34 bags filled with shoes.

"We bagged up 680 pairs of shoes but still have close to 90 pairs still on base that we will donate to the local Salvation Army," said the lieutenant.

Soles4Souls was initiated in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that hit south Asia, after the founder saw an image on TV of a single shoe washing up on the beach. Since then, Soles4Souls has been receiving large donations of shoes seeking to make a difference to those in need.

"The gift of footwear is a vital need to so many impoverished adults and children around the world," said Terry. "What we consider a common part of our wardrobe, a decent pair of shoes is a basic necessity that is not readily available for many people."