, Corbin, KY


May 5, 2014

Corbin schools step up to quench world thirst

For safe water, it’s all about the shoes

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer

Clean, safe water to drink and to use for cooking, washing and sanitation is something a lot of us may take for granted.

In many parts of the world, it’s a luxury to people because the water’s unsafe, or due to poor sanitation, or both.

Getting safe water to those people is a cause Cheryl Tinsley passionately believes in.

And, with the help of others in the Corbin Independent Schools, the social studies teacher at Corbin High School organized a drive to provide that safe water to other lands.

They want no money for the cause — just shoes.

The shoes don’t have to be a pair, either. They can be of any size or condition. Even flip-flops.

Just as long as they’re shoes.

About 3,000 of them, to be exact.

Tinsley said the shoe drive began April 24, and will continue through May 16.

The shoes can be dropped off at any Corbin school, the Corbin Area Technology Center located behind the high school, or weekdays at the Corbin Center, located at 222 Corbin Center Drive, during the hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“The response has been great. I would say we’ve probably gotten about 200 pairs of shoes, and we want to get 3,000. Your youth group at your church can do this, adults can do this, anybody who has shoes to get rid of, we’ll take ‘em,” she noted during an interview at the high school Thursday, while other volunteers gathered around one of the collection boxes to help out.

Tinsley got some help from Ellie Jane Carloftis, an eighth grader at Corbin Middle School, who got her school interested in the cause.

“We set out all our boxes at our school today. We set up posters, and I made an announcement on the intercom about the shoe drive. If we get the students involved, that gets their friends involved, and their parents, and that gets everybody involved,” she said.

But where do the shoes go? And what do they have to do with clean, safe water?

Tinsley pointed out that’s where a Kentucky organization comes in.

“It’s called WaterStep, a American non-profit organization that’s headquartered in Louisville. Once the shoes are collected here, they’re donated to WaterStep, who sells the shoes to an importer. From the sale of those shoes, the funds raised go to WaterStep’s work of providing safe water solutions to people who live in third world countries. Those shoes are then repurposed and re-sold in marketplaces in those countries, providing affordable footwear for those people in need of shoes,” she stated.

Information from WaterStep said on average, they collect 30,000 pounds of shoes each month — or, 30,000 pounds of waste that’s kept from going into landfills.

With the funds coming from the sale of the shoes, WaterStep equips people in those developing nations with the tools, technology an training to provide safe water.

Tinsley noted one tool is a water purifier the organization makes that only needs a 12-volt battery, a handful of salt and five minutes to to what it has to do.

There’s also another piece of material they’ve made to help third world countries.

Tinsley mentioned the first time she saw this “round thing” was when she went to a conference in Kentucky’s largest city.

“We went to a KUNA (Kentucky United Nations Assembly) in Louisville, and 900 kids were there. They showed us a ‘WaterBall.’ They explained that in third world countries most people walk four-to-six miles round trip, just to get water. And they carry the water container on their heads and walk back to their homes. So WaterStep designed a ‘WaterBall’ that can have water inside the ball. Instead of carrying it on their heads, they can roll it, because the ball’s attached to a holder where the person can grip their hands on the handle, like pushing a lawnmower. The biggest size WaterBall can carry 30 gallons,” she said.

When she found out that old shoes can be used for this safe water program worldwide, Tinsley stated it was beyond belief.

“It really moved me. I believe this is the love of God that’s passed on,” she told some of the volunteers.

Her sons, Jeff and Robbie Tinsley, both help out in the shoe drive. And they share their mom’s compassion.

“There’s kids that are less fortunate than us. And I thought, ‘Mom, we really can’t not do this.’ And a lot of people had no idea you can push the ball, instead of carrying it,” said Jeff, a ninth grader at Corbin High.

Added Robbie, an 11th grader at the high school, “I always thought if you treat others the way you want to be treated, yo’ll get it back.”

Along the way, the Tinsley family picked up a very valuable resource — Michelle Alford, the Coordinator for the Corbin Independent Schools’ Family Resource and Youth Services Centers (FRYSC).

“I’m thinking of all the shoes that we have in our closets, and not being used, and that in those third world countries one pair of shoes lasts them for years. This is the right thing to do,” she noted.

Reporting there are 875 million people around the world who live without safe water, Tinsley mentioned WaterStep’s improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in nearly two dozen countries.

Some of those nations aided by the organization’s efforts include Haiti, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Pakistan and the Dominican Republic.

And in putting together the shoe drive for the schools, she said the non-profit’s made it effective because they’ve made it very simple.

“WaterStep makes it so easy for us to do this. They brought the boxes to us. They’ll come down and pick up the shoes, and there’s no layers of bureaucracy involved. It’s simple. I researched this company and they are passionate about it,” said Tinsley.

If you need more information, you can call her at Corbin High School at (606) 568-6342, or go to

With less than two weeks to go, there’s a feeling among those volunteering in the shoe drive that their mission will be accomplished in more ways than one.

Tinsley would like to see the project become a yearly event in the Corbin Schools. But for now, getting 3,000 shoes to fill up those collection boxes is priority one.

And, to bring the gift of health to life in other parts of the world.

“I tell my kids, ‘To whom much is given, much is required. We’re blessed, and we pass that blessing on. We being my family, this school district, and people who help out,” Cheryl Tinsley stated.

Added Alford, “We’re aiming high because you can always go lower. I would live to call them (WaterStep) and tell them that ‘we have 6,000 pairs of shoes. Come get ‘em.’ We want our kids to be important (in helping with the shoe drive), and we know what we’ve done.”

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