In late January, Fales Elementary School first-grade teacher Jennifer Quinlan-Flynn brought a surprise to the school’s Westborough Food Pantry drive.
“I put the food in I brought from home. And then I put my shoes in,” Quinlan-Flynn says.
“The kids said initially they were surprised. But then, I said, ‘Well, why do you think I might have done that?’ And they could easily connect. Somebody said, ‘Well, some people don’t have food that they need. Some people don’t have shoes that they need,’ which was exactly it.”
Fales collected more than 600 new and gently used shoes – including about 550 pairs – during a drive Quinlan-Flynn spearheaded over the weeks leading up to February vacation.
The drive focused on Kindergarten and first-grade students, who learned math along the way, but was open to the whole school community, Quinlan-Flynn said late last week.
The goal was 293 pairs, “a goal that matched the number of kids in Fales,” she said.
Last week, Quinlan-Flynn brought the shoes to the UPS Store in Westborough, which is supporting Feet Need Shoes, an effort trying to collect 200,000 pairs of shoes as “our way of ‘giving back’ as an expression of gratitude for all that we have,” according to its Facebook page. The UPS stores in Westborough, Worcester, Auburn and Holden are participating.
Feet Need Shoes is sponsored by Soles4Souls, which, Quinlan-Flynn said, “was started by a man who first saw a need after the tsunami in Southeast Asia. And then the next year was Hurricane Katrina. And from that, he founded this organization that collects shoes. And they distribute them both after disaster relief and then to places where there’s a need.”
Quinlan-Flynn said two friends teaching in Plymouth and Worcester mentioned their schools are holding such drives.
Fales holds regular drives for the food pantry, organized by school guidance counselor Dana Catarius, Quinlan-Flynn noted. And Principal Maryann Stannard has “asked classes to be open to other community service opportunities, knowing how much learning you can integrate and how invested kids get and how it helps us to put into practice those ideals that we talk about: respect, empathy and community,” she said.
Quinlan-Flynn said Fales’ shoe drive included a number of tasks for the Kindergarten and first-grade studentsh.
“One of my students wrote a letter of how we would announce it to our school. And then another student read it on the announcements. We sent it through our Virtual Backpack,” she said.
As shoes were brought in, students kept track through number sense skills.
“For the last three weeks, each day of the week, I would make a table in my classroom: the shoe drive table. And they would be in charge at the end of the day: they’d take the shoes, they’d match them up, they’d band them, and then they’d record them,” Quinlan-Flynn said.
“Then, after the first week, I sent kids around to all the Kindergarten and first grade classes. They collected data. It was a great math opportunity.”