EDWARDSVILLE – Madison County is joining with Shoeman Water Projects to collect and recycle used or new shoes with the proceeds being used to fund well drilling, water purification systems and hand pumps to those in countries which lack clean, fresh drinking water.
From 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Friday, Nov. 21, anyone with shoes to donate can drop them off in the lobbies of the Madison County Administration Building, 157 N. Main St. in Edwardsville, or the Madison County Health Department, 101 East Edwardsville Road in Wood River.
A public drop-off will also be available from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 22, in the parking lot behind the Madison County Administration Building.
“Madison County is always looking for ways to enhance its ‘green’ sustainability programs,” stated Madison County Chairman Alan J. Dunstan. “By joining with Shoeman Water Projects, we are continuing our efforts to make Madison County as environmentally friendly as possible and are able to help bring safe, clean water to thousands of people, primarily in Third-World countries.”
All types of shoes will be accepted during the collection program, including athletic, running, dress, sandals, pumpos, heels, work boots, cleats and flipflops. The shoes should be tied or rubber-banded together. “As long as they don’t have a hole in them, we’ll take them,” Dunstan added.
According to Kimberly Petzing, Madison County’s recycling coordinator, the officials at Shoeman Water Projects, have issued a challenge to county residents. “The staff at Shoeman Water Projects are continually impressed with the number of shoes that have been collected in Madison County over the years, primarily as part of the county’s Green Schools program. They have challenged us to collect 15,000 shoes,” Petzing said. “If we can collect 15,000 shoes in Madison County during the 2014–2015 school year, they will name a well in Panama for Madison County.”
Shoeman Water Projects was founded in 1994 by George “The Shoeman” Hutchings, who befriended a Kenyan who never owned a pair of shoes prior to graduating from high school. While collecting used shoes to send home to his friends and family, the student asked Hutchings for help with the task, beginning Hutchings’ devotion to the people and plight of Kenya and other needy countries.
Since 1998, Hutchings has made numerous trips to deliver shoes, meals and medical supplies to African nations only to realize that clean water is truly the greatest need. By collecting used shoes and selling them to an exporter who distributes them to street vendors in places like South America, Kenya and Haiti, Hutchings can get shoes to people, and purchase water drilling rigs and purification systems to help those in need.
To-date, “The Shoeman” has collected more than four million pairs of shoes and brought clean water to hundreds of thousands of people.