Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Teen Gathers Shoes for the Needy

Andrea Diez de Oñate of Pembroke Pines, FL took the idea of giving very seriously -- to the soul of its meaning -- and gave the shoes off her feet to the poor.

''I was inspired,'' said Andrea, 17, a senior at Archbishop Edward McCarthy High School in Southwest Ranches.

That was last month after Andrea found Soles4Souls on the Internet and promoted the cause in Southwest Ranches.

Andrea, an after-school teacher of Catholic education for public school children at St. Mark Catholic School, encouraged students to give up their soles. Fittingly, she gave the kids until All Souls' Day, Nov. 2, to get it done.

The goal was to collect 1,000 pairs of gently worn or new shoes ranging in styles from beach-worthy flip-flops to high-end high heels.

''I thought 1,000 pairs was a lot to ask for, but on the first day of the collection, we filled a car not once, but twice, with bags filled with shoes,'' Andrea said.

Infant shoes, sneakers for tots to teens, embellished sandals, men's Italian business shoes, construction work boots and even snow boots poured in from the school's 100 students. Soon, McCarthy High teachers and students kicked in shoes, too.

Andrea's mother, Lisette Diez de Oñate, who helped her daughter transport the shoes, said the collection surpassed expectations so quickly that storage was moved from the family garage to a donated unit at West Pines Storage.

''It was one giant pile of shoes,'' Diez de Oñate said.

One donor delivered five pairs of brand-new shoes neatly tucked into individual Ziploc bags. Some new shoes arrived still in the box with packaging tissue stuffed inside.

At least one pair seemed strikingly familiar.

''We were packing bags and I thought, ``Hmm, I recognize these. I know my mother's feet,'' Diez de Oñate said.

Andrea's grandmother, Abbey Roiz, and her entire family ended up emptying closets of a dozen pairs of shoes.

By the end of this month, the family will take a road trip to deliver the project's 1,300 total pairs of shoes directly to the Soles4Souls distribution center in Alabama.

Andrea, an honor student whose community service includes three years of leading multiple projects in McCarthy's Support Our Troops, Interact and Key Club programs, said it was ''cool'' to be able to help hundreds of people.

''I'm happy to inspire people who have everything to help people who need so much. It's the right thing to do,'' Andrea said.

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