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Shoes needed for third-world countries

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Lions Club members (from left, in yellow vests) Denis Rasmussen, Andy Lee and Garey West, contribute new and gently-used shoes gathered by Lions members to Kiwanis representative Ron Moser (second from left) at their club meeting in the first week of February. The Kiwanians will be gathering shoes through March at several places in Pratt, for donation to third-world countries.

Many Pratt area residents have already taken advantage of a chance to clean out their closets for a good cause, and Pratt Kiwanis club members encourage more to check for good, gently used or even new, unworn shoes that they might donate to an ongoing shoe collection project.

"We have this shoe drive every two years, and this is our third year," said Kiwanis member Ron Moser. "Each time we have gathered over 3,000 pairs of shoes just here in Pratt. It is amazing what a throw-away society we have become. If you think about it, America can basically clothe the world with what we have extra in our closets."

Earlier in February, Moser presented a program for the Pratt Lions Club and that service organization joined in the shoe collection project with members bringing in a full garbage bag of new and gently used shoes to donate for those less fortunate.

"Our goal is to get ready 100 garbage bags of shoes to donate," Moser said. "We appreciate any and all participation."

Moser said the shoes are sorted by Kiwanis members, 25 pairs of shoes per bag, then collected for pick up by Funds2.org, which sends a rental truck out across the state free of charge to those that meet the minimum collection of 2,500 pairs of shoes. Anything beyond the minimum actually generates a small stipend to the club from Funds2.org, which they put towards local projects and leadership scholarships for area youth.

"The driving force behind all of this is that we want to help kids and others who don't have the same opportunities we have to improve lives," Moser said. "The used shoes are given to needy individuals in third world countries, while the new and better shoes are actually given to an entrepreneur looking to start a shoe store, most likely in Nigeria or Haiti. These shoes become inventory and a means of income which can lead to a self-sustaining business."

Moser said the shoe donation not only supports potential business owners in Central America and African nations, it also contributes to better health, particularly in places where neo-natal tetanus is a problem.

"In a lot of these countries, poor people with no shoes, especially pregnant women, are susceptible to neo-natal tetanus, which they get from walking barefoot on contaminated ground," Moser said. "A simple pair of shoes can prevent the passing of this devastating disease on to their children.

The Kiwanis also works with Unicef to fund vaccinations for tetanus, which a mother can receive for $1 per shot.

Locally, the funds raised by collecting more than the minimum pairs of shoes are encouraging character development in Pratt-area children.

"We meet once a month to honor Terrific Kids in our schools with a special lunch and recognition," Moser said.

Shoe collection boxes are in place through March 2020 at the Pratt Municipal Building, PRMC, Pratt High School, Liberty Middle School, Skyline Schools and several area churches.