|Posted by Jim Byrnes, Director on January 15, 2012 at 9:40 PM|
Nazarethcommunity rallies behind 8-year-old's wish to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes for the needy
By NICKFALSONE, The Express-Times, Sunday, January 15, 2012, Page A-1
There's not much space for playthese days in Jayde Rizzotto's living room, but the 8-year-old Nazareth girldoesn't seem to mind.
The room's cluttered with shoes of all sorts -- Nike sneakers, UGG boots, high heels, slippers and virtually everyother type of footwear in all sizes.
Most of the 544 pairs -- at leastthat was the count as of Friday afternoon -- are stacked in bins, crates andcardboard boxes. The collection spills from the living room into the diningroom, where trash bags filled with shoes sit on the table and more boxes restagainst the walls.
For Jayde, the number of shoescollected represents significant progress in getting her one wish for Christmasto come true. During a classroom project prior to the holiday at Shafer Elementary School,she and her fellow third graders were asked to write Santa Claus a letterasking for the one thing they wanted more than anything else.
In a two-page note, Jayde askedSaint Nick for 1,000 pairs of shoes for the needy.
"First, I will give a little bit to people who don't have shoes inPA," she wrote."Second, I will give a little bit of shoes to people who don't have shoesin NY. My last reason is I will give the rest to people who don't have shoes inNJ."
Her parents, Ben and AshleyRizzotto, saw the note late Friday, Dec. 23. Both had a hunch Santa wouldn't beable to come through with all 1,000 pairs in less than two days. Santa did,however, manage to round up one large box with 17 pairs of shoes to put underthe tree come Christmas Day.
The couple then turned to socialmedia and word-of-mouth to try to make up the difference.
Both posted about the shoecollection on their Facebook pages and talked to friends, family andco-workers. Bags of shoes, most of which appeared hardly used, startedappearing at their front door.
"Almost every day, there was another bag out there," BenRizzotto said. "They're stillcoming. We don't even know who some of them are from."
Ashley Rizzotto said there havebeen both big and small contributions. Perhaps the biggest has come fromJayde's friend Makenna Hoff, also 8 and a fellow cheerleader for the NazarethMidget Wrestling program.
When Jayde told Makenna about herwish, Makenna rushed to her Bushkill Township home to clean out her own closet.She's been assisting in rounding up the shoes ever since.
Makenna, who attends Bushkill Elementary School,said she spread the word at her own school about the effort. Her math teacherwas among those who've contributed, she said.
Jayde said she got the idea to askfor something for the needy while watching The Disney Network. She said she'senjoyed seeing all the shoes and particularly likes one pair of women's bootsthat were donated.
"There are ones that aren't even hers that she doesn't want to partwith," Ashley Rizzotto said.
Ben Rizzotto then joked, "Typical girl."
Ashley Rizzotto said she's gonethrough a lot of Lysol disinfecting the shoes and acknowledges that there's abit of clutter in the house, but the inconvenience has been for a worthycause.
The family is arranging todistribute the shoes with the help of the Nazareth Area Food Bank. Thefood bank, which delivers bags of groceries each month to hundreds of people inthe region, plans to put fliers promoting the program in February's delivery,according to Jim Byrnes, director of the food bank.
Byrnes said the fliers were asuccessful promotion tool for a coat drive the food bank participated in thispast fall. He said there's an absolute need among the food bank's clients forshoes.
"I'm a big fan of 'Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,' and thisembodies the whole thing," Byrnes said. "I really give all the credit in the world to (Jayde) for thinkingof people in the community who are in need and doing something about it."
Byrnes said a location fordistributing the shoes is still being worked out.
Ashley Rizzotto said she's beentrying to work with the family's church, St. John's Lutheran Church inNazareth, to use church space to distribute the shoes.
Jayde said she would like the spaceset up to look like a shop so people could browse around for what they want.
Whatever is left after the localdistribution will go to the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the nationalveteran's service organization that collects clothes and other items for theneedy.
Those who wish to donate to Jayde'sshoe drive are asked to e-mail email@example.com.