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Shoe drive under way for quake relief

A mother and daughter team are taking others’ feet into theirown hands… at least figuratively.

Mom Lesly Patterson and daughter Erisse Peterson saw thedevastation in Haiti as a result of massive earthquakes andrealized that while people were responding with food and water andmedical supplies, the citizens of the area were going to need shoesbefore too long.

Patterson, who spearheaded the Organization of Dignified Dolls,a youth organization to address Mississippi’s problems with teenpregnancy, and Peterson, a junior at the Mississippi School of theArts, took that realization and turned it into motion with the”Shoes for Haiti: We Care” program.

“With the situation in Haiti, this is a way for us to actuallyget in on the humanitarian efforts of what’s going on,” saidPatterson. “In such unhealthy conditions, walking barefoot cancause serious health problems when parasites enter the body throughthe bottom of the feet. Shoes are important, because they can helpprevent this from happening.”

And Patterson and Peterson aren’t in on it all by themselves.Grateful Ministries on South First Street has picked up the ball torun with it, as has MSA.

“Grateful Ministries has a drop box they put out last night,”Patterson said Thursday. “They are the first local church to takepart and as a matter of fact, when I arrived at the church, I wasoverwhelmed, because there were bags and bags of shoes, churchofficials said they were just sitting there when they gotthere.”

With Peterson on site to get students involved at MSA, there arealready two full boxes in their library as well, MSA Principal JanaPerry said.

“I’m very proud of our students and the way they’ve responded,”she said. “We already have two boxes full, because they reallyunderstand, especially after Katrina, what it means to have shoesand things in a situation like that.”

The alert went out for the arts school when Peterson sent aFacebook message to all the students at MSA to let everyone knowabout the shoe drive.

Even though the message went out over a weekend when thestudents were all at home, Patterson said it did its job. Onestudent even came back from Jackson with garbage bags full ofshoes.

“She is the one, with her mother, who asked permission do thison campus, and she has spearheaded it and gotten it done,” Perrysaid of Peterson. “She’s an incredibly smart young lady and verydriven academically, and this is her humanitarian side coming out.She’s a strong leader in her junior class.”

The boxes will stay out for at least three weeks, Pattersonsaid, because right now most shipments are not even able to go intoHaiti. But once they can be sent through, there is an internationalcharity that is ready to free the airplane space to bring in theshoes.

“Right now not even the Salvation Army can ship things likeclothing and shoes, so we do have some time because we can’t shipthis type of thing over there right now,” she said. “Right now thepriority is search and rescue, food, water, medical supplies, andanything else is secondary.”

Meanwhile, students continue to bring in their shoes. Some areeven giving their favorite shoes to the effort.

Katelyn Archer, a junior from Picayune, said she plans to give apair of her favorite Converse Chuck Taylors.

“They last so long, and I have some brand new ones I don’t evenwear,” she said.

Her friend Ana Castro, a junior from Walls, said she has beenfollowing the Haiti coverage on Internet news.

“The earth needs to quit having so many earthquakes,” she said,as she put a pair of shoes into the box in the library at MSA.

Local drop-off points are at the Grateful Ministries Church onSouth First Street, or at the MSA Library, Patterson said, or thosewho would like further information are invited to contact Patterson601-327-9841, or email Dignifieddolls@yahoo.com.