St. Marys Area Middle School students with shoes

St. Marys Area Middle School students are pictured with shoes for the “Shoe Us the Love” shoe drive, benefiting the school’s care closet.

ST. MARYS — St. Marys Area Middle School is in the midst of hosting a shoe drive in efforts to raise money for its clothing closet and provide shoes for people in need.

The “Shoe Us the Love” drive will benefit St. Marys Area Middle School students who use the “care closet,” said health instructor Fawn McMackin.

McMackin said she and the school nurse, Missy Cadori, took part in a class about children in poverty last year, learning how it impacts their success as students. With the support of Principal Noel Petrosky and other staff, they decided to create a “care closet.”

The effort received a grant from Women Who Care of Elk County, McMackin said, and accepted donors to begin funding. The community has been supportive, and a significant number of students utilize the closet.

Students can access the care closet by writing their name on a slip, hanging in private spaces throughout the building, and giving it to a trusted adult, McMackin said. The slip then goes to the guidance office, where a counselor or administrator takes the student to the closet area for resources.

When looking for ways to raise money for the closet, McMackin came across an organization, “FundstoOrgs,” that will pay 40 cents per pound of shoes collected. The shoes are sent to countries like Haiti for people in need.

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More than 600 million pairs of shoes are thrown away in the United States each year, according to a news release.

The shoes can’t be torn or ripped. A minimum of 2,500 pairs must be collected. So far, students have collected 500. The fundraiser ends March 15.

St. Marys Box Company donated boxes for the middle school to use, McMackin said, and many have reached out to support the cause, including Hepler’s Country Store in Brockway, which donated three bags of shoes.

Collection boxes are available at all St. Marys Area School District buildings, as well as Hoss’s Steak and Seahouse, Elk County Career Link, Bennetts valley Senior Center and the St. Marys Public Library in St. Marys. Shoes will also be collected at the St. Marys boys basketball game Feb. 7, and Elk County Catholic Schools are collecting pairs during “Catholic School Week.”

“We are looking for any other businesses or churches in the area that might be willing to collect shoes for us,” McMackin said.

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