Accepting another Dell computer is a habit that the children of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School have acquired ever since a shoe collection contest began.
Marie Johns of TV 13 started the Walk in Our Shoes program five years ago. Four years ago, PenTeleData began offering a computer to the school that collects the most shoes per student. Ss. Peter and Paul School has received the computer every time.
Last year, Kim Bell, manager at Blue Ridge Communication TV-13, challenged the students to win by upping the ante and adding ice cream and pizza if they would win the computer again. Bell made good on that promise. The students enjoyed both treats this year.
In 2009, the students collected 333 pairs or 3.74 pairs of shoes per each student. In 2010, they collected 605 pairs of shoes for a shoe ratio of 7.75 pairs per student, winning them their third Dell computer. This year they collected 767 pairs of shoes or a ratio of 9.5 pairs of shoes per student, which assured them of winning their fourth computer.
"We have the 'Walk in Our Shoes,' computer lab," quipped Principal Sherry Sernak.
The children enjoyed when their visitors, Bell, Johns and Jillian Kuntzman of Blue Ridge Communication TV-13; Retired Colonel George Duell, Jr., liaison with the military; Bill Campbell of the Pennsylvania Committee for Employee Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR); and Maria Stianche of the 1 Love Foundation; visited their school to thank them. Stianche said the shoes will be sent in shipping containers 4,000 miles to Sierra Leone, Africa, where there is a brutal civil war.
During the presentation, Campbell and Duell presented certificates to the students of Ss. Peter and Paul School and to Stianche for their support of the project.
Approximately 3,500 pairs of gently-used shoes were collected during the 2011 campaign.
Fifteen elementary schools helped make the project a success.
Johns noted that since the "Walk in Our Schools" project started five years ago, 20,000 pairs of shoes have reached those in the local area who need shoes, and also several corners of the world, including Arizona, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. Johns said that the project started when a soldier stationed in Afghanistan asked to have shoes sent for the children. She noted that the U.S. soldiers had distributed the shoes, but since now that the country is standing on its own, the soldiers have stepped back and are letting the country take care of its own.
She said she has partnered with the 1 Love Foundation to have shoes sent to war torn and poverty stricken Sierra Leone, where many of the children never had a pair of shoes.
"Half of the shoes will stay right here to help the those who need shoes," said Johns. She said the shoes will be distributed locally in Brodheadsville, Bushkill, Stroudsburg, Tamaqua, Lehighton, Northampton and Jim Thorpe. The overseas distribution is being handled by the 1 Love Foundation. Johns said that the shoes collected by the students are picked up by the National Guard Armory staff.
Johns said that state Reps. Mario Scavello, Mike Carroll, Jerry Knowles, Rosemary Brown, Doyle Heffley, Mike Peiffer, Julie Harhart and state Senators David Argall and John Yudichak donated funds toward the shipping costs, along with Ss. Peter and Paul School, Shull David Elementary and Wallenpaupack Elementary.
Pencor employees held a dress down day to help pay the shipping costs.