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Virginia Tech Graduate School Collects Over 1100 Pairs of Shoes

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day, the Graduate School’s Office for Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion (ORDI) at Virginia Tech set out to do their first shoe drive for Soles4Souls last month. Shania Clinedinst, ORDI support programs specialist, said doing the drive really embodied Martin Luther King Jr.’s message: We cannot walk alone. “The response has been overwhelming,” she said.

When Clinedinst initially reached out to Stephanie Hathaway, Soles4Souls Director of Operations for Virginia, she expressed concerns relating to COVID-19 and how they could safely involve their community in a service project. But after discussing options for contactless bins and sanitation systems, the project quickly took off.

“They really set me up for success,” said Clinedinst.

The team placed bins, equipped with bags and sanitizing equipment, in a few buildings across campus, as well as partnering with local Blacksburg Baptist Church for contactless drop-offs. With the initial response being so successful, the team extended their drive through the end of February after collecting over 500 pairs in just a week.

“This service project was important to reaffirm our motto of Ut prosim and to demonstrate that distance cannot halt our commitment to serving others,” said Shernita Lee, assistant dean and ORDI director.

Over the last year, finding schools able and willing to take on shoe drives has proven to be a challenge, according to Hathaway. However, Virginia Tech’s team was up for the task, proving that success is possible, even during a pandemic when campus life looks so different.

“Consistent communication around the impact and success drove more donations in than they ever imagined. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the amount of donations, they stayed true to the cause and served as boots on the ground– placing and monitoring collection boxes that filled up daily,” said Hathaway. “Their belief in the Soles4Souls mission helped propel this successful drive to nearly triple their goal.”

The team’s drive finished with a final collection of 1,106 pairs of shoes, keeping 1,382 pounds of textiles out of landfills. In countries we serve like Haiti and Honduras, 1,106 pairs of shoes can provide a month of food, shelter, and education for 19 families.

“Despite COVID-19 and the individual challenges we have all faced, the greater Hokie community has responded with tremendous generosity and we are grateful for their response,” said Clinedinst.