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Fighting poverty

Searcy Fire Department hosts shoe drive

This article was published March 13, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.


From the left, Garren Batts, Caleb Keese, Randy Salve and Ross Cothern participate in a shoe drive for Ozark Water Projects that provides a way to fund water-purification systems for orphanages and schools in Haiti, Kenya and Uganda where no potable water is readily available.

As Searcy residents clean out their closets preparing to trade boots for flip-flops, the Searcy Fire Department has a solution to the problem of what to do with those shoes they no longer need.

The Fire Department is participating in a shoe drive for Ozark Water Projects, a charity geared toward alleviating as much human suffering as possible by providing affordable footwear and a cup of clean, fresh water to folks who don’t have those items readily available.

This is the first time the Searcy Fire Department has participated in a shoe drive for Ozark Water Projects.

Lisa Coleman, fire marshal for the department, said she is glad her workplace is taking part in the drive.

“I like knowing that we’re doing something that will benefit these [people],” she said. “We’re collecting new and used shoes, and the shoes will then be taken out of the country and sold.”

Karla Allen, executive director of Ozark Water Projects, said the charity has been in place for about three years.

“We use the shoes that we collect to fund clean-water projects,” she said. “We have an exporter who buys the shoes from us for $.35 per pound. We’ve exported over 300,000 pounds of shoes, so that adds up.”

Allen said one pair of shoes equals about 1 pound.

The money the charity raises from the shoes goes to buy equipment that is used to provide clean water to people in developing countries.

Shoes collected from drives like the one the Searcy Fire Department holds are shipped out from Little Rock when their weight reaches 20,000 pounds, Allen said.

“Our exporter then just comes and picks them up.”

After funds are raised from the shoes, Allen said, wells and water-purification systems are built for countries such as Haiti and Uganda.

Allen and her husband started Ozark Water Projects after they saw a man from St. Louis on television who participated in a similar project.

“My husband called him up and found out it was something we could participate in,” Allen said.

The charity is based in Little Rock and collects shoes from drop-off sites all over the state. Local schools have collected shoes for the project through the years, but Allen said that in the summer, the shoe collections slow down.

“Most of our shoes are from elementary and middle schools, but they’re not in session during the summer, so we start to focus on churches,” she said. “We really want churches to do shoe drives in the summer.”

The Searcy Fire Department will accept shoes through Sunday at all three of their stations from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day, Coleman said.

Station No. 1 is at 501 W. Beebe Capps Expressway, Station No. 2 is at 1901 E. Market St., and Station No. 3 is at 2612 W. Beebe Capps Expressway.

More information about Ozark Water Projects is available at

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or


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