PLAINFIELD – Seventh-grade Troy Middle School student Etta Sklar has always been interested in Holocaust education, so it wasn't too difficult to come up with a community service project for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah celebration.
In Jewish tradition a young girl becomes a Bat Mitzvah when she comes of age at 13 years old; for young men it's called Bar Mitzvah. It means they are now accountable for their actions.
Part of the Bat Mitzvah celebration includes directing a community service project. Etta got together with TMS Assistant Principal Tyler Haymond and he suggested working with Funds2Orgs, which helps impoverished people to start and maintain businesses in countries like Haiti, Honduras and other nations in Central America and Africa.
Together they came up with a shoe drive that would benefit the school, involve the community and make a difference in the lives of people in need.
The three-fold project is over and above what is required, but Etta is very excited about helping and involving so many people.
The shoe drive was kicked off on April 22. People in the community and from the school district brought in new and gently used shoes to TMS. So far they have collected 1,400 pairs of shoes.
The shoes will then be redistributed to a network of microenterprise partners in those developing nations, according to a news release from TMS.
Several years ago I was on a safari in Africa and one of the things that was most notable was that people walked everywhere. We were told by our guide that it's not unusual to walk 5 or 10 miles every day just to catch a bus to get to a job.
Many Africans wore sandals that were made out of tire retreads; it was typical footwear for them.
When I think of all the pairs of tennis shoes I have in my closet that I consider "worn out," well, it's kind of embarrassing.
On the American end of this service project, if they can collect another 1,000 pairs of shoes by May 19 they will receive money from Funds2Org, which will pay to bring in a Holocaust speaker for students in eighth grade next year during their Holocaust unit, which is so dear to Etta's heart.
Anyone is welcome to donate new or gently used shoes to this project by dropping them off at Troy Middle School, 5800 W. Theodore St. in Plainfield, at the main office, said Etta. The office is open on school days until 3:30 p.m.
While they're a bit short of their goal of 2,500 shoes, Etta is excited about the way the shoe drive is going so far.
"We just need the community to help out with the rest," she said.
Helping people around the world is important to Etta, but she's also looking forward to bringing in a Holocaust speaker for her classmates next year.
”I think it's important people know what the Holocaust is, people should be educated about it," she said. "We need to preserve the memories, many of the survivors won't be here any longer."
• Kris Stadalsky writes about people and issues in areas southwest of Joliet. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.