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Haiti to get 1,274 pairs of shoes, and counting

Posted By January 5, 2012 | 1:35 pm | Lead Story #2
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By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

WORCESTER – Young people throughout the diocese now have a greater sense of what it’s like to live in Haiti and to be unable to afford basic necessities, such as shoes.

“Take a Walk in My Shoes” was an Advent service project sponsored by the diocesan Office for Youth Ministry.
A shoe drive, held in December, yielded 1,274 pairs of new and gently used shoes. These range from “the tiniest” to size 13, according to Terese Meilus, who coordinated the program. Her husband, Deacon Eduardas V.  Meilus, is director of the youth ministry office.
“It’s really cool to see how generous people are to help people in need,” said Victoria Paulino, of St. Paul Cathedral, as she joined others in the Chancery sorting and counting the donations last week. “There was a box over there that was all brand new shoes.”
“It’s so overwhelming – in a good way,” added Tara Shea, of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Worcester.
“Even though we can’t go to Haiti directly, we were able to make a difference,” said Briana Mansour, of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Leominster. Her brother Nathaniel Mansour marveled at “how people can be so

Tara Shea and Victoria Paulino pack a “shoe box.” Photos by Tanya Connor

generous to give shoes they hadn’t even used.”
The shoes were collected by various youth groups, schools and parishes, as well as at St. Vincent Hospital where a group of nurses took up a collection.
The shoes are now in storage at the Chancery, awaiting shipment to Haiti. Mrs. Meilus said that St. Paul of the Cross, Eastern Province, a Passionist community that also serves the poor in Haiti, will help with the shipping. Shoes will be distributed by several organizations on the island nation including Deacon Meilus’ counterpart in the youth ministry office in the Diocese of Les Cayes and the Be Like Brit Foundation. Some of the young people collecting shoes knew 19-year-old Britney Gengel of Rutland who died in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The Gengel family, members of St. John Parish in Worcester, established Be Like Brit to serve the children of Haiti.
“It was greater than our expectation,” said Deacon Meilus. “We didn’t think we’d get 1,200 pairs of shoes.”
Deacon Meilus said the youth ministry office always does some sort of service project before Christmas, such as a coat drive.
“This year we thought of doing something for Haiti,” he explained.
Mrs. Meilus said part of the reason the office chose to collect shoes for Haiti came about because the youth office is now located at the Chancery, instead of the former Oakhurst R

Brother and sister Nathaniel and Briana Mansour count and organize shoes.

etreat Center in Whitinsville.

“We’re in a new location – let’s try something new,” she remembered thinking.
Mrs. Meilus, who coordinates programs for the youth ministry office, said it’s been a fun project.
“It’s something the kids can get involved in so easily,” she noted.
Diocesan schools, including St. Joseph in Webster, St. Anthony in Fitchburg and Holy Name High School in Worcester, also participated in the shoe drive. Mrs. Meilus said that o

ne seventh-grade boy said to her, “I wish I knew which boy was going to wear my shoes.”
”Just think of all the children your own age that you’re going to be helping,” she told him.
Mrs. Meilus said one trend she’s noticed lately is that the youth, in general, are generous with their time and talents.

“We’re noticing that this generation of youth is into service,” she said. “They want to be part of the solution, they want to help people, it’s the generation that we’re fostering right now.”
“We have to try changing the world one face at a time, one heart at a time,” she added.
“I think it’s so exciting, but especially encouraging, that young people would get together to help those around them and people they haven’t met,” said Lauren Bleau, of Holy Name Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School, while packing shoes.  “We hope to reach out to other youth in the area” to get help for similar projects, she said.

– Tanya Connor contributed to this story.