‘Men for others, women for others’

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Gillett students collect more than 500 pairs of shoes for African children

Ana Grover, a Gillett High School sophomore, grabs a box of donated shoes to take to a waiting vehicle for Americans Serving African Children Inc. Her fellow members of Future Business Leaders of America credited Grover with spearheading the shoe collection drive. (Times Herald photo by Warren Bluhm)

It took less than a month for a Gillett High School service club to collect 502 pairs of shoes to help African children get to school.

Future Business Leaders of America packed the shoes Friday into two sport utility vehicles bound for the Americans Serving African Children charity of Manitowoc.

“You guys are something else,” Brian Shaw of the Manitowoc charity told the assembled FBLA members.

“We have a phrase, ‘Men for others, women for others.’ That’s the way I think of you folks: You’re men and you’re women for others,” Shaw said. “You are developing at a fairly young age a whole mindset, an attitude; it’s a wonderful thing.”

The collection drive, which began just before Christmas, was the brainchild of Ana Grover, a sophomore and FBLA chapter president. She is the daughter of Mike and Shelly Grover.

Ana said she has always been interested in mission trips and helping the less fortunate. A YouTube video helped her make a connection between our “throwaway society” and the way a pair of shoes can impact a life in Africa in three significant ways.

“It allows a child to get to school, walking without fear of cutting or scraping their feet,” she said. “It helps protect their feet against debilitating diseases, and it gives them hope.”

FBLA members posted flyers and collection boxes in school and around town, and more than 500 pairs of shoes were collected in barely a month.

“One person made this happen,” said Danyell Franti, FBLA adviser, as Grover’s fellow chapter members applauded. “It’s more than a pair of shoes for these kids – it’s one of the biggest days of their lives.”

Shaw said Americans Serving African Children Inc. grew out of concerns for street kids in Nairobi and other cities.

“People would take them in — they call them orphanages, but it’s not an orphanage like we would think of one,” Shaw told the Gillett students. “It’s basically somebody’s home, and they just have a heart for these kids. … And then the thing is, the kid’s friends will be knocking on the door, and it would become a problem, actually. They don’t want to turn them away, and yet their little house is full already.”

The FBLA donation comes at a perfect time, Shaw said. His group’s ninth annual Pancake Breakfast and Clothing Drive is scheduled for Sunday, and they expect to collect a truckload of clothes to be sent overseas.

They will be able to include the donated shoes in the same shipment; otherwise the FBLA shipping costs might have been prohibitive, Shaw said.