DALLAS TWP. — Christine Somers, director of Campus Ministry at Misericordia University has a pair of handmade sandals she bought during one of her first service trips to Guyana.
Made by a local shoemaker, the sandals cost her only $12 and they have been on mission and service trips with Somers everywhere from Peru, Jamaica and Haiti to El Salvador, Mexico and Texas.
“The shoes can tell a better story than I can,” Somers said, with a laugh.
That was exactly what Colleen Newhart had in mind.
Newhart is the access services manager at the Mary Kintz Bevevino Library at Misericordia University, and after attending a conference last year, she was inspired to host a program at which members of the community could tell their stories through displaying their shoes.
Twenty-nine pairs of shoes sit atop the library’s bookshelves, ranging from a bright red pair of high heels worn by Mrs. Pennsylvania, ballet toe shoes, soccer cleats, black Chuck Taylors, Hello Kitty boots and cowgirl boots, worn by faculty, staff, alumni and students, both traditional and non-traditional. Each pair of shoes is accompanied by a story describing where the shoes have been and how the owner of the shoes feels about their experiences.
The display was a part of National Library Week, which is celebrated by the university each year, but the shoes will remain on display until the end of April. This year’s theme is “Communities Matter.”
Newhart could not think of a better way to showcase what makes up the MU community than with unique, personal stories told through someone’s shoes. “This is what our community is made of. It’s for people to get to know who they’re living with and who they are working with,” Newhart said.
After serving 23 years in the U.S. Army, Fred Allenbaugh retired and this past December received his first report card in 20 years. The 41-year-old Tunkhannock native is enrolled at MU and on track for a degree as a physician assistant.
Allenbaugh said he joined the army at 17 because he wanted to “travel across mountains” and “get his feet dirty,” and he has had hundreds of pairs of boots that have seen more and been through more than he could ever describe.
He decided to donate these boots because he felt welcomed by the Misericordia community and he wanted to help with or participate in any program he could. He also admits to simply loving reading books and loving libraries.
“I’ve always loved libraries,” said Allenbaugh. “I feel comfortable there.”
Sue Lazur, senior secretary at the Bevevino Library, walks in a Suicide Prevention Walk every year in memory of her brother who committed suicide eight years ago. She donated her white, gold and green sneakers to the exhibit because she hopes to raise awareness about mental illness and suicide.
“There isn’t enough education,” said Lazur. “If we can bring more awareness to this, maybe other families won’t have to go what we went through.”
Lazur also said that helping out someone else just feels good. Lazur spoke of participants in the walk who, though they have not been directly affected by suicide, will walk to support those who have.
“It gives a nice feeling that there’s a lot of humanity left in the world,” she said.
Jeffery Puckett is a freshman at Misericordia University and will go down in history as the school’s first quarterback. Being a part of the school’s first football team, Puckett felt donating his cleats had a special significance.
“If my cleats could tell a story, they would probably tell one of a journey from the beginning of my experience here in August, meeting all of my teammates, who have become my brothers, meeting all the coaches, and then working day in and day out to get to the first-ever MU football season,” he said.
Mark Van Etten is the director of budgets and accounting at Misericordia University and also the president of Back Mountain Regional Fire and EMS. He donated his fire boots, which have been to dozens of fires, walked over live power lines and protected him from extreme elements as a 20-year veteran of the department. He also works to get college students involved in local rescue services.
The Back Mountain Regional Fire and EMS serves 30,000 residents, including two universities and two school districts, so the more people willing to help is better for the community – that’s where the college students come in. Van Etten was a volunteer during his time as a Misericordia student and understands the importance of having college-age students working to help their communities.
“It worked out … that I was able to respond to calls during daytime hours when most volunteers were at work,” he said.
Unique leather sandals
Somers has gone on several missions and service trips to underprivileged areas in other countries and right in her own backyard.
The university’s Campus Ministry not only hosts these service trips to orphanages and people’s homes who are in need of a kind human spirit, but also does work with schools in Noxen, supports Habitat for Humanity, goes on soup kitchen visits and aids the elderly.
Somers believes it is about acting locally and helping the community, but also thinking and acting globally. When she heard about an exhibit, she knew she needed to display her one-of-a-kind leather sandals.
“I’m always trying to tell the students, we need to be in global solidarity with our brothers and sisters in other countries,” said Somers. “If you ever talk to a student that has gone on a trip, they’re life-changing.”