GREENVILLE — How many miles are represented by 3,000 pounds of shoes?
It was a question brought before Pastor Ron Sherck by a member of his congregation at the Greenville Church of the Brethren. The church had collected 3,000 pounds of shoes for the WaterStep Shoe Collection throughout August.
This year marks the fourth year of collecting shoes for Waterstep, a non-profit organization located in Louisville, Ky. Its mission is to provide safe water to communities in developing countries.
The shoes that are collected are purchased by an exporter that pays WaterStep a specific rate per pound of shoes, explained Sherck. Waterstep uses the funds to build an easy-to-assemble, small chlorine generator that purifies contaminated water, saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year.
WaterStep also provides emergency response, assisting with water supplies after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017 and most recently in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian.
In its first year, the Greenville Church of the Brethren worked to promote WaterStep within the community. By the second year, a committee was formed with several area churches involved. This teamwork expanded the presence and promotion of WaterStep that accepts gently used shoes that are free of mold and mildew.
“It can be even more than gently used,” explained Sherck. Even shoes with rips, holes, or not fully intact will be accepted. These shoes can be broken down into various components such as the canvas or rubber to be recycled. The reusable shoes can be resold to needy individuals around the world who can fix, repair, and resell them.
“It becomes a double blessing,” said Sherck. “The shoes pay for the water filtration but also enable a person to have an income to take care of them and their family.”
This year was the largest response the church has ever received. Donations came from the Brethren Retirement Community, Greenville Federal Bank, Ansonia United Methodist Church, First United Methodist Church of Greenville, and the Boys and Girls Club.
They also had several individual donors as well as a significant donation of shoes from the Darke County Right to Life.
While the collection officially runs every August, the church does accept shoes throughout the year.
“I’m just really impressed with their organization and what they are doing,” said Sherck on WaterStep. The nonprofit visited the church in the first year of participation. They shared what they do and how they assist communities in need. This includes training individuals on how to use safe water solutions like water chlorination and bleach making, along with health education and how to repair wells.
It is hard to imagine how these individuals live on an average one and a half gallons of water a day for drinking, cooking, and bathing. However, WaterStep helps make it safe and attainable.
“It puts a different perspective on things,” said Sherck.
For more information on the WaterStep Shoe Collection and the WaterStep organization, visit waterstep.org.