Wednesday, December 23, 2009

She puts heart and sole into helping others

Catherine Thriveni, 16, a student at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, held a shoe drive for the nonprofit organization Soles4Souls. Thriveni, of Salisbury, has collected 112 pairs of new or gently used shoes from her classmates. Photo by

Shavonne Potts/Salisbury Post By Shavonne Potts

Catherine Thriveni recently acquired more than 100 pairs of shoes. In a few weeks she's giving them all away.

Thriveni, 16, began collecting shoes from her classmates to start her own shoe drive for Soles4Souls, a nonprofit organization based in Tennessee that receives new or gently used shoes and gives them to people who need the footwear.

"You don't have to pay any money. We'll take shoes you don't use anymore and give to people who can use them," she said.

Thriveni is a junior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. The school is a public, residential high school where students study specialized curriculum emphasizing science and math.

She spoke with a school administrator who sent an e-mail to students and faculty about Thriveni's drive. She set up collection boxes in each residence hall. She received a lot of responses.

"School is busy and for students, it's nice to take a break and think about others," Thriveni said.

Her classmates and others have been supportive of her efforts to receive as many pairs of shoes as she can.

"Everyone has been supportive. That's the most rewarding part. One of my friends donated 11 pairs of shoes," she said.

Everyone is so willing to help. Many of her donations have been from a few people giving a lot.

Her brother, Tom, 21, also donated some of his shoes.

Thriveni began collecting shoes around Thanksgiving and has collected 112 pairs.

She chose this time of the year because students would have time to return home and solicit donations from other friends and family.

Thriveni also created a Facebook page for the drive and solicited donations on the social networking site.

She was familiar with the organization prior to deciding to have her own drive. A donation drive had been done at Sacred Heart where she attended.

"We all want to be active and give back. We just need the opportunity," she said.

Community service is something Thriveni is passionate about. She's volunteered with the American Red Cross for two years. Also with CODA, Care of the Durham Area, a school club/program where students volunteer at local shelters. Thriveni will go to Guatemala for a month for a summer with Global Public Service Academies, a program for juniors and seniors who have interest in health careers. While in Guatemala she will shadow phyisicans, conduct health screenings.

Thriveni wants to become a pediatrician.

"It gives me a good feeling to help others," she said.

It's important for Thriveni to take a break from the hustle and bustle of school and "focus on really important things," she said.

Thriveni hopes to get more shoes for this drive before its time to ship the shoes to the nearest warehouse, in Alabama, for distribution.

Her father, Pius, and mother, Nice, have been so supportive, Thriveni said.

Once all of the shoes have been collected her parents will pay to have them shipped.

She's not done. Thriveni plans to conduct another drive next year and collect even more shoes.

"When you think about it, it's such a simple thing with such huge benefits and such huge rewards," she said.

For more information about the Soles4Souls organization, visit www. soles4souls. org.

To contribute to Catherine Thriveni's shoe drive, contact her at or 704-645-0757.

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