NEWFOUNDLAND - Shoes and socks were the source of a different lesson at a local elementary school recently. Every student at Wallenpaupack South Elementary School was given a pair of shoes and socks, in an effort to “build bridges” said Pastor Che Weber from the First Assembly of God in Greentown.

Loving Greene Dreher provided the gifts, as a way to create connections and make people “healthier,” said Weber. Being in a rural area where resources are limited, the hope is that people will work together when necessary.

When waitresses from John’s Italian Restaurant learned of the organization’s plan, they collected over 900 pairs of socks for the students. In total, 300 pairs of shoes were given, as well as socks and more because the Pennsylvania State Police gave stickers and magnets, with the Greene Dreher Fire Department and Dutch’s Market showing their support too.

Prior to the shoes’ delivery, every student was sized and if, by chance the shoes didn’t fit, then the appropriate fitted shoes would be ordered.

Knowing the students and what their needs are, a kindergarten teacher Liz Conklin said the shoes were “absolutely” important, because many were wearing hand-me-downs and now, they have their own shoes that fit. That, she said, is simply, “Phenomenal.” An additional component of this gift Conklin explained, is that shoes and clothes affect how a child may feel about themselves, which transfers to their education.

A fourth grader, Brielle Ostrowski said she loved her new shoes because black is her favorite color and they were comfortable. Receiving the new shoes was a surprise, but the socks were also nice because she likes the color white too.

Each student receiving the same shoes and socks was essential to the students, said fourth grade teacher Karianne Politowski, because they are on the same level with the same things, so no one’s shoes are better or different.

In a district that has a high level of low-income families, Politowski said there is a need for such items as shoes and socks. For the students who don’t need them, the shoes would be kept in the nurse’s office for students who need shoes in the future.

South Elementary Principal Mark Kirsten said simply, “thank you” to the community for their support and Loving Greene Dreher because the need exists and is ongoing. Every Friday, 25 backpacks of food are sent home with students in need, thanks to the Moravian Church. At other points, the Rotarians give the students clothes and dictionaries. Kirsten said he was “ecstatic” when he learned that Weber secured the grant, because there are over 300 students in the school.

A student in the pre-k, Frankie Umana wasn’t overly excited about the shoes, instead he exclaimed it was the “best day ever” because he met the state police and they gave him a badge.

A volunteer from Loving Greene Dreher, Harlon Cook said there was “super chaos” when the students arrived, but it was “super cool” because the kids were having fun and laughing.

Trooper Bob Urban said the day was an “awesome opportunity” for the officers to meet children, so they know the officers are there to help.

After the students received their shoes, Weber said the day was like “Christmas morning” because she saw that some shoes were well used and socks had holes in them.

Whether this large of a gift will happen again, Weber wasn’t sure because it was a national grant. Looking to the future, she said the volunteers from Loving Greene Dreher would like to host a hero’s dinner for first responders in the area, but help is necessary. For that idea, to start a place to hold the event is needed. Weber said the reality is that resources are required because the church only has 30 parishioners. In this instance however, she believes God provided what was needed since everything came together “out of the blue.”