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Caldwell Fellow Kevin Miller (’13) and Park Scholars Brian Gaudio (’13), Alex Lombardi (’13), and Claire Lucas (’13) joined NC State students Drew Brisley (’12) and Caitlin McCombs (’13), along with members of the Raleigh community in collecting more than 2,000 pairs of shoes in conjunction with Soles4Souls, a nonprofit organization that coordinates shoe distribution to those in need around the world.

Through their “ShoeManity” project – funded in part by a Park Enrichment Grant – the group personally distributed over 200 pairs of the shoes to schoolchildren in the Dominican Republic earlier this summer. The students worked with the principal of a local school in Cienfuegos to provide shoes for her pupils. On the trip, the group also spent time in Batey Libertad and Lajas learning more about specific regions of the country.

“At each location, we discussed the quality of life issues faced by local residents,” Gaudio said. “We had the opportunity to learn about how poor air quality and a lack of access to clean water are impacting the health of the population.”

In the months leading up to their experience in the Dominican Republic, the students sought the advice of a variety of faculty and administrators on the NC State campus, among them, Dr. Marvin Malecha, dean of the College of Design, and Dr. Art Padilla, professor and department head of the Department of Management, Information, and Entrepreneurship.

The remainder of the shoes collected were sent to Haiti to assist with ongoing relief efforts in the wake of the earthquake earlier this year. Soles4Souls staff members and volunteers have been distributing the footwear collected in Raleigh during trips to Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities where they wash, size, and fit shoes for children and adults.

The project has recently been granted official NC State student organization (search ‘ShoeManity’) status, and its student leaders are now considering the idea of taking the concept to the next level by creating a non-profit organization.