If you had the happy occasion recently to wander into the room at the Weinberg Y used by the Y Achievers program (our career and life readiness program for local middle and high school students), you would have witnessed something that would have likely surprised you. The students were hosting a “Shoe Party,” which might not have made a whole lot of sense until you came to understand what in the world (literally) it all meant. With the help of several Y associates and volunteers who brought in dozens of used jeans and recycled plastic bottles, the Weinberg Y Achievers created 100 shoe kits to be shipped to Sole Hope in Uganda, which will use them to assemble desperately needed shoes for children threatened by foot-related diseases there.
So, how did this all happen, you might ask? Well, that’s where the power of community, volunteerism and the Y’s unique ability to connect human beings comes into play.
The story starts with Eric Somerville, our Executive Director of Volunteerism and Community Engagement. Among his many pursuits, Eric is a member of the Tows
ontown Rotary. At a recent meeting he was introduced to Deborah de la Reguera, the local force behind Sole Hope. Deborah described the organization and their mission of offering hope, healthier lives and freedom from foot-related diseases through education, jobs and medical relief for Ugandan men, women, and children, where parasitic diseases of the foot are common.
Every pair of shoes that are assembled cover the feet of children and protect them from foot-related disease. Each sponsored pair of shoes also provides jobs for local Ugandans who make the shoes.
In his continuous pursuit of ways to leverage the Y community to further social good, Eric brought this idea to Warren Wiggins, the site director for the Weinberg Y Achievers program. From there, Warren and the aptly-named Achievers took it and ran with it. In little time, 100 shoe kits were ready for their trip to Uganda.
You have only to glance at the photos (plus the wonderful Facebook post) to be reminded of the joy of giving and the power of the Y community. Solving a problem can be terribly complex, but it’s much more achievable (pun intended) when it is broken down into pieces and it’s enabled by the connective tissue of community. Thanks to the irrepressible Deborah de la Reguera, the Towsontown Rotary, Eric, Warren, the Weinberg Y Achievers, Y volunteers and associates, 100 children in Uganda will now have their feet protected and a better chance to do something with their lives.
As you’re watching the snow fall this evening and tomorrow, you now have one more thing to warm your soul.
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland