St. Clair Junior High School art students have launched a project targeted at providing individuals in a Third World country with clean drinking water.
Through May 7, a quintet of seventh-graders are collecting gently used pairs of old shoes as part of the Shoeman Water Project. The project collects donated shoes — any kind, new or gently used — and exports them to street vendors in places like Haiti, Kenya and South America and uses the funds from exporting to provide clean water programs in communities around the world.
“A small core group of students at St. Clair Junior High felt they wanted to help organize a way for our community to participate in outreach like this,” SCJHS art teacher Amanda Butenhoff told The Missourian. “With planning and preparation and with about a month left in the school year, they decided collecting 1,000 pairs of shoes would be a realistic goal — if the community came alongside them.”
The five students are Brendon Sanders, Jeremiah Johnson, Kaylee Ziegler, Lacee Austin and Samantha Lovell.
Butenhoff said the pupils reached out to several St. Clair-based businesses and asked for their assistance.
“They were pleased to have every business they asked accept their request to be a drop-off location for shoes,” Butenhoff said, adding that the drop-off boxes were delivered on Friday, April 12.
The area businesses are Belmont Furniture and Resale, Dalton Eyecare, Dollar Plus, Farmers & Merchants Bank’s Main Street location, R&R Ace Hardware, Ranch House, US Bank and St. Clair City Hall. St. Clair Elementary and Edgar Murray schools also have come alongside by having drop boxes and encouraging staff and students to participate in the drive.
Start of Project
The idea to put together a local drive came to light after St. Clair R-XIII School District teachers saw it working at Stanton Elementary School in Fenton, which happens to be the headquarters city for the Shoeman Water Project.
Stanton Elementary is assisting the R-XIII School District with a new approach to classroom instruction, “The Leader in Me,” which will be adopted in the fall.
“We are under the guidance of Stanton Elementary,” Butenhoff said. “When visiting the school for a workshop, we learned of a shoe drive that their school was participating in as a result of the idea of one fourth-grade girl. She felt that she wanted to make a difference in the lives of people half the world away by collecting shoes and working with the Shoeman Water Project to help a community in a third-world country receive fresh water. The school goal was 5,000 pairs of gently used and new shoes of all kinds.”
Butenhoff said she and other R-XIII teachers visited Stanton Elementary on the tail end of its collection efforts and felt that a great way to thank the school for its investment in the St. Clair faculty would be to help it reach its goal.
“The students and staff at St. Clair Junior High donated 71 pairs of shoes within a month,” she said. “This put Stanton Elementary School three pairs over its original goal. The student who initiated the shoe drive was thrilled to tears at the news.”
However, Butenhoff said, after delivering the local donations to Stanton Elementary, the shoes kept coming.
“So, the small core group of students at St. Clair Junior High felt they wanted to help organize a way for our community to participate in outreach of the same sorts.”
And the local drive was created.
The May 7 deadline date was chosen because it coincides with the St. Clair R-XIII School District’s art fair, which takes place that evening at each of the four schools in the district.
As a thank you, on that night the SCJHS Art Club is offering free black light fluorescent face painting during the fair to those who donate three pairs of shoes. Cards are available at all shoe drop-off locations to track the number of shoes given.
“Just bring in three pairs of shoes or your card filled out by an associate at our drop-off locations and you will receive a free black light fluorescent hand or face painting,” Butenhoff said. “We will have a black light darkroom as part of the junior high art fair. Not only will it be a great place to check out your face paint, but it will also house black light fluorescent artwork created by the students in our art club.”
Individuals who do not donate shoes still may get painted that night for $2.
Butenhoff said art club members will not only be offering the face painting but will guide visitors through the building to show the fruits of their efforts during the current academic year.
“We have bitten off an ambitious project that has taken a lot of effort, patience, and diligence to pull off,” she said. “Art leaders, sixth through eighth grade have all worked together to make one of the darkest and neglected places in our building into one of the brightest and most inspiring.
“I’d love for the community to come out and see what our students have been up to. I look forward to the chance to celebrate these kids and their efforts.”
Shoeman Water Project
According to its website, the secondhand shoes made available through the Shoeman Water Project are a valuable product for street vendors to sell at affordable prices. The end users are people who do not have shoes and cannot afford to purchase new shoes. The shoes protect the new owner’s feet from foot abrasions, parasites and mites.
Funds generated from the export of shoes provide well-drilling rigs, water purification systems and hand pump repair. Individuals also receive fresh drinking water.
The “sole power” of donated shoes collected by founder George Hutchings and his team at Shoeman so far has resulted in the purchase of four water-well drilling rigs, more than 250 wells drilled serving more than 200,000 people and water-purification system installations and well-pump repairs serving clinics, schools and villages in Kenya and Haiti.
For more information, contact SCJHS at 636-629-3500.