February 9, 2013
After collecting for only one month, the Salvation Army on Ridge Street opened its doors Saturday morning for the annual shoe drive to a long line of community members waiting to shop.
Organizers say about 3,500 gently worn pairs of shoes were donated. They say in years past, there have been more, but this year there was an increase in children's shoes.
But the new shoe owners were not the only ones benefiting from today's event. A number of volunteers from high schools and the University of Virginia helped out.
"It affects their behavior in a positive way. It helps make them feel more like a leader, makes them feel like their voice actually counts," said Patti Flynn, the volunteer adviser at Albemarle High School. "When I see them work in the homeless community and I see their own stereotypes slowly disintegrating with each person they meet, it's a feeling I can't describe."
One man was not only shopping for his grandchild but for the countless kids he sees going to school without a decent pair of shoes.
"I have permission from my wife and friend to fill up the car all around them with as many shoes as I can get in," said Bob Rietzke, a Chase City resident who drove up for the shoe drive. "I think they'll be a lot of happy kids in our neck of the woods."
Any leftover shoes will be used in one way or another -- whether shipped to a developing country or the rubber being used elsewhere. Organizers say they make sure every extra shoe is used for something.