Taking time out of her summer vacation, recent Brookstone High School graduate Brandy Pierce joined a handful of former classmates and underclassmen collecting shoes for Iraqi orphans.
"We were basically responding to a need," Pierce, 18, said. "When we see that there's a need we want to meet it and be able to help others."
In just a couple of weeks, the students have collected approximately 1,000 pairs of shoes, all of which will be Iraq-bound in just a few days thanks to a partnership between the school and the the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
"This has been a wonderful relationship that we've been able to build with the 3rd Brigade, not only with them but to help the people who they are working with," said Cindy Sparks, director of Brookstone's Servant Leadership Program. "And it was just a natural response when they asked us if we could help collect shoes. We were ready to respond and were able to do so and help our children understand the feeling of helping others."
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The efforts of the students were augmented by a generous donation of about 200 pairs of shoes from the Open Door Community House. Meg Olive, family support specialist with the non-profit said her organization runs a program that provides new shoes to local school children, but often receives used shoes that go undistributed. Those were the shoes Olive happily donated to Brookstone.
"We're interested in expanding the reach of Open Door," Olive said.
This morning, the shoe drive's organizers -- Sparks and Pierce included -- gathered outside the middle school and handed off their bounty to 3rd Brigade Rear Detachment Commander Lt. Col. Tom Woodie. After loading several trash bags brimming with shoes of all types into his SUV and onto a small trailer, Woodie drove to the brigade's headquarters on Fort Benning.
It will take a few weeks for the shoes to reach Iraq, Woodie said. Once in country, the shoes will be distributed by 3rd Brigade soldiers around Babil Province.
The 3rd Brigade and Brookstone have done several events together since the brigade deployed to Iraq in October. Most recently, a class of Brookstone students participated in a teleconferencing event with several Iraqi students.
"I think part of it was the students here, as they saw and interacted with the children in Iraq, they saw the differences in the lifestyle here and the lifestyle in this case of the Iraqi orphans," Woodie said. "So that's kind of how the need was identified."
Pierce said she feels blessed to have grown up in a community and a family that can meet her basic needs.
"It also opens my eyes to know that there are others out there who don't have it like I do," she said.