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Murrysville siblings help provide shoes for 2,200 Haitians

| Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, 2:00 p.m.
Submitted
Students from Franklin Regional High School work with Walmart associate, Lori Slepsky, to prepare pallets loaded with boxes of shoes to be sent to Haiti. From left, Jonathan Lockwood, Luke Gregory, Jake Gregory, Slepsky, Nicole Lockwood, Kyle Hughes, Ali Fagan and Shannon Lieu spent hours packing the 1,410 pairs of shoes donated during several shoe drives throughout the district. Walmart donated the shipping costs for the first 200 pairs of shoes sent and permitted students to use the facility to ship the remaining shoes. Submitted photo

Jonathan and Nicole Lockwood wanted to do a project that would be good for the soul.

They ended up helping 2,200 of them.

Through a series of shoe drives sponsored by the Franklin Regional French Club, the Murrysville siblings helped collect 1,410 pairs of shoes and raised more than $3,200 for Haitians who still are affected by the 7.0-magnitude 2010 earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation.

The donation was directed to the “Haiti: Three Years Later” project that the international nonprofit group Soles4Souls manages.

The money the group raised during a fundraiser at Franklin Idol and during the several months of the drive will buy an additional 800 pairs of shoes that Soles4Souls plan to distribute in a village outside of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, which sustained heavy damage in the earthquake.

“Shoes are one of those things that everyone has sitting around,” Jonathan Lockwood said. “It was a rewarding project.”

Initially, the group thought collecting 200 to 400 pairs of shoes was a lofty goal, Nicole Lockwood said. But after working with the Murrysville Community Library and hosting several drives throughout the school district, the teens were surprised by the volume of donations they received.

“It was amazing,” Nicole Lockwood said.

Haiti faces a lot of challenges. While still recovering from an earthquake that is estimated to have killed more than 300,000, the nation is beleaguered by poverty and health issues. Its life expectancy of 63 and its $1,180 gross national income per person are among the lowest in the Americas, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the WHO, Haiti's rates of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria are dramatically higher than the regional average. And if that weren't bad enough, the nation was engulfed in a cholera epidemic after the earthquake that killed more than 8,000 and sickened more than 600,000.

This month, Yale University researchers released a report that says there is “overwhelming evidence” the cholera outbreak was caused by United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal.

Franklin Regional officials commend the Lockwoods for the amount of work they put into the project.

“One of the things we try to reach for at the high school is to leave every place a little bit better than you found it and try to make a difference for others,” Principal Ron Suvak said. “That's what these kids have done here.”

Nicole Lockwood credited the community for supporting the idea so strongly. Each Franklin Regional school included information during morning announcements, while librarians spread the word using “New Old Shoes,” a book that tells the story of a pair of shoes traveling from an American boy to a child in Africa.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at dkurutz@tribweb.com or 412-856-7400, ext. 8627.

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