10 churches among drop-off sites for used shoes in August

Photo Caption: Denise Henderson, who got the WaterStep shoe drive going at The Iona Group and St. Ann’s WATCH, is pictured with Iona Group and WaterStep leaders.

By: By Jennifer Willems

MORTON — Anyone who has a pair of shoes they don’t wear anymore can do something to provide cleaning drinking water for people who need it.

This month it’s easy to do, too.

During August, The Iona Group and Float Mobile Learning in Morton, in partnership with St. Ann’s WATCH program, are co-sponsoring a WaterStep shoe drive. Based in Louisville, Kentucky, WaterStep sells the shoes to an exporter and uses the funds to provide simple, sustainable, low-cost water solutions and training to people around the world.

New and gently used shoes of all kinds, from flip-flops to dress shoes, may be dropped off at more than 50 locations in Morton, Peoria and surrounding communities. Among them are: St. Anthony Church, Bartonville; St. Mary Church, Metamora; St. Mary of Lourdes Church, Germantown Hills; St. Joseph Church, Pekin; and Holy Family Church, St. Ann Church, St. Jude Church, St. Mark Church, St. Philomena Church and St. Vincent de Paul Church, all in Peoria. (For a complete listing, visit ionagroup.com/shoes)

RELATED: Shoe drive in Bloomington Aug. 8-17

“What you do in one month’s time — what we have on our records are 11,000 pounds the first year, 15,000 pounds the second year — is absolutely tremendous. It really is. We don’t take that lightly,” said Wes Reece, director of WaterStep’s Shoe Program, during a recent visit to The Iona Group with Greg Holt, chief operating officer.

“We know how much work is going into this and we really just say thank you,” he told the employees. “Every shoe you collect, everything you do is helping somebody get clean water and that’s what we’re all about.”

“It’s hard work collecting shoes, but it’s such an easy message,” Holt told The Catholic Post. “The reason we collect shoes is it is a source of revenue, but it is also a great way to spread the word and raise public awareness that there is a world water problem.”

On its website, WaterStep reports that 780 million people around the world lack access to clean water and that 80 percent of all disease in the world in caused by contaminated water.

“A lot of people want to be part of a solution, but they don’t know how,” Holt said. “We introduce them to how and it’s such an easy connection that anyone can do it.”

The donated shoes are sold to an exporter, who sells them to microbusinesses in developing countries. This provides a livelihood for owners of these businesses and offers another layer of protection from disease to people who may not have shoes either.

The benefit in this country is that it keeps unwanted shoes out of landfills. Anything that can’t be used by WaterStep or the exporter is recycled.
Holt sees the shoe drive as a “unifier.”

“It raises compassion within a group of people and it unites them for a cause,” he said. “For churches, that’s our faith that motivates us to do that.”

Denise Henderson, who works at the Iona Group and is a member of St. Ann’s WATCH (We Are the Church), said this is so successful because everyone can do something to help.

“One woman told me that while she admires the missions, she doesn’t really see herself as a missionary. But I think that’s probably not quite true,” Henderson said. “By donating one pair of shoes from her closet, that is her mission and she is helping internationally. I think that’s the impact this has.”

For more information, call Henderson at (309) 263-4662.

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