Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Young volunteer collects shoes for charity

The Bellingham Herald

As the holiday season looms large, residents in Bellingham, Washington are taking a day out of their weekend to do some early giving.

Saturday is Make a Difference Day, a national day of service that allows people to get together with an organization to do some good. More than 1,100 local volunteers are expected to take part in more than 30 projects throughout the county.

Though many participants may see Make a Difference Day as a one-time thing, it could just spark some people to go a little further.

Local student and author Sondra Clark has teamed with nonprofit Soles4 Souls with the goal of collecting 5,000 shoes for the less fortunate. Clark, a 17-year-old senior at Bellingham High School, spoke with The Herald about giving big and little before her homecoming dance.

Question: Your book, “You Can Change your World: Creative Ways to Volunteer and Make a Difference” is about how kids can make a difference. What are some of the best ways they can do that?

Answer: Starting small. You hear about kids on the news who are helping kids in Africa — and that’s amazing and wonderful — but that can be daunting to kids. Just look around your school; look locally. Talk to a teacher and ask if there’s someone in your class who doesn’t have enough money for school supplies; maybe do a book drive.

Q: How did you get started volunteering and getting involved?

A: My parents have always encouraged me to volunteer, and I’ve grown up doing it. On Easter, we volunteer at a homeless shelter. We cleaned toilets after the dinner; it’s kind of the unglamorous part. When I was 12, I went to Africa for the first time. When I came back, I knew I needed to do something to help these kids … I raised $85,000 for AIDS orphans.

Q: What role do you hope volunteering will play in your life as you age?

A: I think it’s definitely going to be a huge part of my life, whatever I do. I don’t think it’s right to go through our lives and not reach out and help someone.

Q: Why do you think Make a Difference Day is important?

A: I think volunteering in itself is important, and Make a Difference Day is a great chance to get involved. A lot of times I know that people want to help, but they don’t know how to start.

Q: Your Make a Difference Day organization is Soles4 Souls. Why did you choose them?

A: They are a great organization from Nashville, where I’m from. I’d done some work with them passing out shoes in Nashville. This summer I was in Guatemala (passing out shoes for Soles4 Souls), and it was amazing to me how many of these kids didn’t have shoes. The smiles on their faces when they got those shoes were amazing.

Q: What is one thing you think anyone can do to make a difference?

A: I think just kind of look around you and see if someone needs a word of encouragement. Look at the perimeter of your friends. A lot of times it’s those people who it really makes a difference when you say, “How are you?” That’s sort of at the core of volunteering, helping the human nature of people.

Folks in Bellingham can donate slightly used shoes to Soles4Souls at the Childcare Worldwide headquarters located at 1971 Midway Lane, Suite N. Before donating, tie shoelaces together and wrap with a rubber band.

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