Blue Ridge Communications Channel TV-13 News, assisted by the Army National Guard Detachment 1,-1067 Transport Company, Lehighton, wrapped up another successful "Let Them Walk in Our Shoes" campaign to collect shoes for local needy children and the poor children of Afghanistan.
The program, in its fourth year, collected 6,300 pairs of gently used and new children's shoes over the last few weeks.
Spearheading the campaign were Kim Bell and Marie Johns of TV-13 News.
Johns said that approximately 3,500 pairs will be shipped to Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Dailey, out of Fort Carson, Colorado, who is currently deployed to Afghanistan. Johns said that Dailey, along with other soldiers will distribute the shoes to children to help with their good will mission in Afghanistan. The remaining shoes will be distributed locally to Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network; Bushkill Outreach; Church Women United of Stroudsburg; Bethany Evangelical Christian Church, Tamaqua; Bethany Evangelical Congregational Church, Lehighton; Northampton Food Bank; St. John's Lutheran Church, Jim Thorpe; Family Promise of Monroe County; Angel's Closet; and Seven Day Adventists.
Johns said that the local distribution sites were selected to receive shoes because they will be distributed at no cost to needy families.
Johns was eager to see the project completed and was excited by this year's successful campaign.
"The first year we collected 600 pairs of shoes," said Johns. "Each year the amount has risen."
Johns said that from the beginning people liked the project, but often said, "What about the children who need shoes here?" She said that is when they started keeping some shoes aside for local distribution. Plus, she added, that the costs for shipping the shoes is substantial.
"We simply can't afford to ship them all," she said.
She said that $3,300 was collected to pay for shipping the shoes. Donating toward the cost of shipping were State Reps. Mario Scavello, John Sipthroth, Mike Carroll, Jerry Knowles and State Senator David Argall. Plus the following schools and businesses held dress down days, with proceeds donated to the shipping: Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School, St. Joe's Catholic School, Panther Valley Elementary School, First National Bank of Palmerton, Bushkill Reformed Church, Woman's Group; and Pencor Services held two dress down days for the project and Commonwealth Connections Academy, a charter cyber school, also did a collection.
Nineteen schools participated in the collection of shoes. Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School was the top school again - collecting a total of 605 pairs of shoes by 78 students, which averaged 7- pairs of shoes for each student at the school, while Clear Run Elementary School collected the most pairs of shoes, 992 pairs with 831 students. The schools also collected hard candy and beef jerky and gum for the soldiers.
Johns said that picking up the shoes was a real treat for her and Bell, as they rode from school to school in Army vehicles for the collections. Taking part in the convoy were Staff Sgt. Paul Wortmann, Spc. Nicole Fackler, Staff Sgt. Mike Marra, Spc. Fredrico Andrade, Staff Sgt. Chuck Byers, and Sgt. 1st Class Paul Shollenberger.
"The kids were so excited to see the soldiers," she said. "It was also good for the soldiers to see the kids wanting to help."SSG Paul Wortmann, who is charged with overseeing the Lehighton unit of the Army National Guard said, "TV-13 did a super job. This is a great event for us."
SSG Wortmann said that children outgrow their shoes so quickly that they are hardly worn.
"The shoes will seem like new to the children in Afghanistan," he said. "It will help the soldiers win the hearts and minds of the children of Afghanistan."
"We were pleased with the reception of the children in the schools," he said. "The children were so helpful. They wanted to help load the shoes. Everyone was so wonderful. We had no problem finding volunteers."
SSG Wortmann said that he hopes that next year more schools step up to the challenge and collect shoes.
During the collection period, the shoes were stored at the local National Guard unit, plus the unit will transport the shoes to the United States Post Office on Tuesday for shipment, plus helped distribute the shoes to local distribution outlets.