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Students putting heart and 'sole' into senior project

By JOE CENTERS • Jan 16, 2020 at 10:00 AM

It’s back to business for three St. Paul High School seniors — the shoe business, that is.

Jude Sweet, Grant Houck and Zach Stine are collecting shoes for their senior project. They already have collected about 1,000 pairs of shoes.

The shoes will be delivered to Soles4Souls — a non-profit social enterprise that creates sustainable jobs and provides relief through the distribution of shoes and clothing around the world. Founded in 2006, the organization has distributed more than 30 million pairs of new and gently-worn shoes in 127 countries.

The World Bank estimates that approximately 767 million people live on less than $1.90 per day, according to the Soles4Souls website. Many people living in extreme poverty simply do not have access to stable employment.

Soles4Souls’ micro-enterprise programs offer a long-term solution to poverty through job creation in places like Haiti, Honduras and Sierra Leone. They also give a second life to unwanted shoes, keeping them out of landfills and protecting the environment.

The shoes are sold for an average of $1 per pair to non-profit partners in developing countries, that provide business training to local entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs purchase the shoes and are then able to start businesses of their own selling the product in their local marketplaces. This allows entrepreneurs the opportunity to earn a sustainable income, and ultimately purchase necessities like food, shelter and education.

The income generated by selling just one pair of shoes in Haiti can provide up to five meals for a family in need, whereas 30 pairs sold by an entrepreneur in Honduras can provide up to a year of schooling for a child. Revenue generated by Soles4Souls’ micro-enterprise operations funds the organization’s free distribution programs, that provide new shoes to people in need both in the U.S. and around the world, according to the website.

“We set up bins around town and we’re collecting shoes from the community and they will be sent overseas to third-world countries to set up shop for people to sell them to make money,” Sweet said.

Bins are located at the Ernsthausen Community Center, St. Paul church and high school and Stine Dental. There will be bins in front of Stine Dental for after-hours drop-off.

People also can bring shoes to the students’ homes.

“It’s for our senior project and it’s for a good cause,” Houck said. “We learned about it and became interested in the project.”

Stine said everybody has extra shoes sitting around the house and this is a good way to get rid of them. Our used shoes here are a valuable commodity in a third-world country, he said.

“Our goal is to reach 2,000 pairs of shoes,” Stine said. “I think we are about halfway there.”

Sweet is the son of Amy Sweet of Norwalk and Tom Sweet of Norwalk. Houck is the son of Jackie and Shawn Hauck. Stine is the son of Denise and Roger Stine.

The project will end Jan. 30 at the spaghetti dinner to wrap up Catholic Schools Week. The event will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. in Reynolds Hall at the Early Childhood Center. People are asked to bring a used pair of shoes to donate to the project. 

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