A tribe of 12 faculty, staff, and students from Ancilla College came together under the leadership of Sr. Carleen Wrasman at the Sojourner Truth house in Gary. While it is common for groups to come from Ancilla to offer assistance in physical labor, such as cleaning and landscaping, this visit had a different goal: sorting shoes.
1675 pairs of shoes were donated and the Ancilla group was put to the task of pairing the shoes together. The paired shoes that were in new or near-new condition were kept for the clients of the Sojourner Truth House; those remaining were sent to the group, Soles in Step. From there, according to Sr. Carleen, “Shoes good enough to wear are sent to poor areas around the world. Some shoes are repaired. Any reusable parts of shoes in bad shape will be re-purposed.” Soles In Step pays 40 cents for every pound of shoes donated. “This shoe project benefits STH and many people around the world. It is a wonderful project helping others and reducing land fill,” said Sr. Carleen.
The Sojourner Truth House is a community resource and day shelter for homeless and at-risk women and was founded in 1997 by members of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, the same religious order that founded Ancilla College. It was created to help serve the needs of the underserved in the Gary area, providing food, shelter, clothing, and services to the poor and needy.
The needy were not the only ones who benefitted from the event. “It was tedious,” laughed Dia Cooper, division chair administrative assistant from Ancilla. More seriously, though, she mentioned how blessed it made her feel. “As we were sorting all of these shoes to send to other places where people had no shoes, it made me realize how small many of my problems are.”
Student James Amodei also took a lot away from the project. “I went so I could meet new people and see Gary for the first time,” he said. “When we finished sorting and saw the empty bags in the empty garage and how much we had accomplished for the residents – that was my favorite part of the trip.” Being affiliated with PHJC, Ancilla places a great deal of importance on service to the community. Albert Escanilla, Ancilla’s campus minister said, “The responses of our student volunteers were very positive. The enthusiasm and expressed eagerness while sorting the shoes were the indications that an inner transformation was occurring.”
While benefitting the community, the purpose of volunteer work is to develop the student. Escanilla said, “I am convinced that the greater inner transformation of our students occurred on the ride home. It was in the momentary stillness, sporadic silence, and noticeable long gazes outside the car window, was where their hearts were truly changed. Within those short reflective moments, their quiet hearts were finally heard; silent to the ears, but deafening to the soul. My sincere hopes are that their (student volunteers) hearts continuously resonate with love for service from this experience. May they take the seeds of volunteerism and continuously sow and nurture them within their hearts, so that it may blossom into the fruits of stewardship and love to share with others.”
Ancilla College (www.ancilla.edu), part of The Center at Donaldson, offers 21 associate degrees and 20 athletic programs. Since 1937, the college has been a sponsored ministry of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. It is a small, private, liberal arts school located two miles south of U.S. 30 on Union Road near Plymouth, Indiana.