Sneakers, boots, sandals, and other types of shoes in various colors lined the steps leading to the sanctuary platform at La Sierra University Church in Riverside, California, on Jan. 26, a cornucopia of footwear that will soon protect the soles of those in need.
The shoes were donated by La Sierra students, faculty, and staff during a university Spiritual Emphasis Week chapel for contribution to the Soles4Souls program, a nonprofit established in 2006 that collects millions of pairs of donated shoes and delivers them to impoverished communities throughout the United States and the world. La Sierra donors who gave the shoes they were wearing during the chapel service were invited to take a pair of flip flops from a cardboard box in exchange.
La Sierra joined the Soles4Souls shoe donation program in the fall through the work of Sandra Fermin, incoming spiritual vice president for the Student Association of La Sierra University, or SALSU. Her goal is to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes this school year. During the university’s fall quarter, students, faculty and staff gave more than 500 pairs which Soles4Souls shipped to Haiti’s hurricane victims. Thus far during winter quarter, the effort has netted nearly 200 pairs of shoes which are stored in the SALSU office.
Fermin discovered the nonprofit last summer while investigating ways the university could become involved in service as a campus.
“I was really wanting the campus to come together in something we could not just do for our community, but for the world,” she said. “Donating money was out of the question since most of us students are struggling financially. As I was researching organizations, Soles4Souls came up. I looked into it and saw that this would work well with our campus.”
The university’s winter quarter ends March 23. Around that time, a second batch of shoes will be delivered to Soles4Soul’s Fullerton distribution center. The nonprofit will further sort and clean the shoes for delivery to those in need in a location yet to be determined.
Caleb Orozco, a freshman pre-dentistry major felt compelled during the Jan. 26 chapel service as well as during another chapel program to answer the call to donate. He gave both pairs of shoes he was wearing during the services – a pair of Creative Recreation shoes, and pair of Vans.
“I didn't want to initially because both times I was wearing the shoes that I wore most often,” Orozco said. “However, I remembered what Christ said about giving twice as much as someone asks for and his call for us to take care of the less fortunate, and I realized that I am extremely blessed. I knew that I still had more shoes that I could wear, which would function great for me, while in some other place there was a person who had nothing to cover their feet.”
Continued Orozco, “I know that if Christ had been placed in the same situation as I had, He would not have hesitated for a second. That is why I decided to donate.”
The university’s chapel services are organized through the Spiritual Life division. Fermin relies on the division’s assistance to help spread the word and seek donations. “Spiritual Life is the strongest platform that has helped us move forward with this project,” she said. “They have supported me in all my projects [and] programs.”
Spiritual Life Assistant Chaplain Linda Biswas added, “Spiritual Life is a supporter and mentor to the SALSU spiritual vice presidents. They in turn support us as well. We're a campus family. That means this year we're privileged to support Sandra and the ideas she brings to the campus.”
La Sierra University has received broad recognition for its local, national and international service endeavors. Fermin believes the Soles4Souls program poses another opportunity for the school to build upon such a reputation and further its mission of outreach. “I brought this program to La Sierra because I believe this campus has the strong potential and has the reputation of serving others,” she said. “Many people may not have the time to go out and serve in charities or with foundations. With this project people are giving and serving with their new or used shoes.”
To participate, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.