Air Force Academy cadets donate shoes to needy neighbors

By Erin Prater Published: December 15, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

Hundreds of needy people in Colorado Springs will have warm, dry feet this winter thanks to a shoe drive held last month by Air Force Academy cadets.

The two-week drive netted 250 pairs of new and used shoes and boots, said Cadet Christopher Dylewski, a sophomore and the third group chief clerk for the cadet wing.

Dylewski, a Colorado Springs native and goalie for the academy's hockey team, came up with the idea for the drive while brainstorming ways that the academy could help the community.

"I decided we have a lot of stuff," said Dylewski, a member of Squadron 29 who is majoring in aeronautical engineering and minoring in Chinese.

"It seemed like people had a lot of shoes they were willing to part with."

Dylewski and 12 volunteers set up 40 collection points across campus, but the response was underwhelming. So they "went around and knocked on about 4,000 doors and asked people what they had to give," he said.

Dylewski is thrilled with the number of shoes donated and cadets who volunteered their time.

"It's unbelievable, the support we got," he said. "People are really very busy between their course load, military duties, sports and having a life.

"I'm very pleased with being able to steal some of those hours."

The shoes were picked up by Jan Jones, volunteer director for the Dream Centers of Colorado Springs, a nonprofit that aims to "provide health and hope for people working to rebuild their dreams," according to its website.

Jones distributed the shoes to the Joel Home, a temporary residence for youths newly out of foster care, and 5 Dollar Missions, a New Life Church group that ministers to the homeless.

"She was very surprised at how many shoes we were able to pull together," Dylewski said. "She was very appreciative, which was very kind of her."

Dylewski hopes the shoe drive becomes a tradition.

Each year the academy gets "1,000 new people with a whole bunch of shoes they don't want," he said.

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