It′s not unusual for college students to pack a trunkful of shoes when they leave for Christmas break. But on December 18, Geneva students Olivia Hemlock, Beth Riley, Ashley Marshall and Rachel Riddell, along with Resident Director Marti Aiken, loaded a college van with 600 pairs.
The shoes were donated by members of the Geneva College community as part of a McKee Hall initiative called "I Dare You." Throughout the semester, the residence hall staff issued a weekly "dare" or "challenge" to give students the opportunity to participate in different causes. During the first week of November, that challenge was to raise awareness for over 300 million people worldwide who can't afford shoes.
The McKee staff invited the entire campus "to walk a day in their shoes" by going barefoot for 24 hours and donating footwear to Soles4Souls, a non-profit organization based in Nashville. By the end of the week, hundreds of dollars and shoes had been donated.
"At first, my staff was planning on shipping the shoes to Nashville, where one of the Soles4Souls warehouses is located," Marti says. But through the Final Exam Care Package program, Geneva′s residence life office gave them the unique opportunity to deliver the shoes themselves.
Marti and four student volunteers tied up the shoes, put them in boxes and bags and loaded up a college van. They arrived in Nashville 10 hours later, and in the morning they drove another hour to the Soles4Souls warehouse.
There they met up with a man named Bobby, who packs an 18-wheeler with shoes from floor to ceiling every week and drives them to the main warehouse in Alabama. He was thrilled to hear that the Geneva community had come together to collect shoes and that they had taken the extra step to deliver them in person.
"To see this project come full circle was amazing," Marti says. "It was an exhausting but amazing adventure, and it was definitely a blessing to be able to hand deliver the shoes to the organization.
"This event reminded me of why I love my job as a resident director," she continues. "I have the privilege of walking alongside students and taking part in and planning events such as these that have such great potential to change the hearts of students. More importantly, through this event, I am reminded that the heart of God is full of humility. Every time I saw someone′s bare feet hitting the pavement on our campus, or when I would carry a box full of donated shoes back to my building, my eyes welled up with tears of joy."
Geneva College is a comprehensive Christian college of the arts, sciences and professional studies. Founded in the tradition of the Reformed Christian faith, Geneva prepares students to serve Christ in all areas of society: work, family and the church. Geneva College′s philosophy of education is based on the Foundational Concepts of Christian Higher Education. Geneva is a founding member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU).