Phoebe Nguyen’s senior year of high school has already proven to be busy. She is not only juggling her new busy school schedule with distance learning, but she has also been putting in tremendous effort to spark change in her community.
The Frontier High senior, who has grown up in Bakersfield, has seen the population growth and recognized the potential of the community when it comes together. So, in collaboration with Soles4Souls, she initiated a local shoe donation drive to help those in need.
“Something that you may see as small can mean the whole world to someone else,” she said.
Soles4Souls is an organization dedicated to turning unwanted shoes and clothing into opportunity, by keeping them from going to waste and putting them to good use – providing relief, creating jobs, and empowering people to break the cycle of poverty.
Last year, she heard about this organization through DSW and visited their website to learn how she could help the movement. She made it a personal birthday project to collect 100 shoes. She contacted a representative to gain information on how to ship a large amount. They provided the boxes and she ships them to their California warehouse, where they are later distributed around the world.
It has since then become a birthday tradition. This year, she made the goal 200 pairs of shoes but quickly surpassed it by her birthday. As of this week, she collected 329 pairs of shoes. She had already announced she was collecting until the end of September so she simply expanded her goal to 500.
“I was beyond overwhelmed by all the support,” she said happily.
Her friends have helped by reposting her social media page @s4s.bako and her family became involved in the project by helping her collect the shoes.
When donors reach out, she schedules a day and time that works best with everyone; however, COVID-19 presents new challenges.
Nguyen and her volunteers are taking proper precautions. They all wear masks and gloves and practice social distancing. The CDC recommends the items be isolated for two days but they do three — just to be safe. After those three days, the group counts and packages the shoes.
“I believe everybody is a part of the project,” Nguyen said. “It is not for me… it is definitely a team dynamic.”
She feels that the time and effort put in to organize the project is completely worth it in order to help others.
As she looks towards graduation, she sees the possibility of studying business or management.
She said, “I know whatever career path I take, I want to try my best to always give back to the community.”
If you would like to donate shoes and help her surpass her goal by the end of this month, message Nguyen on her Instagram page: @s4s.bako.