After months of being collected by volunteers, shoes piled up in a Fairbanks warehouse Tuesday, ready to be paired up and shipped overseas.
Delta Kappa Gamma is an international society of women educators that aims to impact education worldwide. A Fairbanks chapter of the society has been gathering shoes since spring to ship to impoverished parts of Africa, as part of the Shoes for Africa charity.
Sometimes children in these countries are unable to go to school because they grow sick after contracting diseases through their feet, according to Eleanor Houts, fundraising chairperson for the Fairbanks chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma. The group is sending the shoes as part of a parasite and disease prevention effort.
Houts taught at Fort Wainwright and at Pearl Creek Elementary School before retiring. She taught for different elementary school grades, as well as for the gifted and talented program. As many members of Delta Kappa Gamma are retired educators and some are still teaching, they have connections to various schools throughout the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.
“Well amongst our members we reached out to schools at the end of the year when there was leftover lost and found that hadn’t been collected, and Dr. Zamber, who used to go to Africa and perform eye surgeries, in his clinic here … he promoted a gathering there in his office, and so we got a lot from them,” Houts said.
She added that members have received donations through word of mouth and from churches.
Members gathered at Houts’ husband’s warehouse, which lent its space to the society Tuesday. They hauled in bags of shoes and laid them on the floor while waiting for others to arrive.
“It just seemed like, that’s a really good thing,” Kathy Alton said. “I think about all the shoes that I take to rummage sales or to Salvation Army or Value Village or whatever, and I’m happy to do that, but I was just thinking that, man, this way these just definitely go to people that are somewhere else that didn’t have shoes.”
Alton taught at various schools in Alaska for 28 years and joined Delta Kappa Gamma in 1995. Alton was able to secure donations through Fairbanks Lutheran Church. As a member of the church, she offered to take all the shoes from the church’s yearly garage sale.
Alton, Houts and others all sat down and stood at warehouse tables around 2 p.m., then began securing matching shoes together with rubber bands and laces.
“We put them in bags of 25 each and then when we have our total, we give them to Lynden,” Houts said. From there the company delivers the shoes to their destination.
The society’s goal is to collect 2,500 pairs of shoes in total. The group’s final tally on the pairs of shoes they collected Tuesday is 825.
They are still accepting donations. Those interested can contact Chapter President Maryanne Allan at email@example.com.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMlocal