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GUILDERLAND: A step in the right direction

The 2007 Shoes for the Shoeless campaign has set its sights on collecting 11,000 pairs of shoes from Capital District residents for those in need in Appalachia.

Gail Leonardo Sundling, campaign coordinator and owner of The Delmar Bootery in Stuyvesant Plaza, Guilderland, said in a press release that an estimated 100,000 pairs of wearable shoes are gathering dust in the bottom of people's closets.

These shoes could be used to help families in need around the nation, Sundling said.

Last year the Shoes for the Shoeless campaign collected 10,913 pairs of shoes.

The annual shoe campaign, now in its 12th year, has collected more than 72,000 pairs of shoes since its inception, and it could not have been possible without the generosity of donors or the help of volunteers, Sundling said.

Sundling said she started the campaign from a nationwide shoe drive with the Shoe Service Institute of America in 1995.

"I asked myself, 'What do we do with all the shoes that had remained on the shelves that were not picked up after being repaired?'" she said. "I decided why not open it up to the public. There are all these shoes in everyone's closets that are mostly wearable, and we will collect them."

Sundling said she has used several organizations throughout the years to distribute the shoes to the needy, the first few years being The Adventist Community Service, which works in conjunction with The Red Cross. They took the shoes and distributed them to the homeless in New York City.

Others have also helped throughout the years.

"We had a pastor who drove from Oklahoma, picked up our shoes and brought them back to the Indian reservations," she said.

For the past few years, Sundling has worked with Albert O'Neill Jr., who comes up from Delaware to load up the shoes to be distributed to needy communities in Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. O'Neill does the journey at his own expense, but Sundling said her organization helps him with gas money.

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