“Those Shoes” Inspires Community Service Project in Newbury

Laurie Collins holds the book that inspired the community service project in Newbury.

Laurie Collins holds the book that inspired the community service project in Newbury.

I guess it comes with the territory.

As the children’s librarian at the Newbury Town Library in Byfield, Laurie Collins gets to not only read plenty of books but also to recommend books.

One of the books, among many, that she has recommended is called, “Those Shoes,” by Maribeth Boelts.  The parental response to this 40-page, illustrated book caught Laurie’s attention.

“Whenever it was given out, people would come back and say – “That was such a great story,” and, “It was so inspiring,” recalled Laurie in a recent interview at the library.

“Those Shoes,” is about a young boy’s ultimate generosity with a prized possession – sneakers.

The many positive responses caused Laurie to determine that the book had a clear message and readers might want to move from words to deeds.

The end result is that children in Newbury will be given the opportunity to donate pairs of new sneakers to those less fortunate.

How is this going to happen? 

“On March 24th (Tuesday) a group from Triton High School, doing community service, will visit the Newbury Elementary School,” explained Laurie.  “I’ll meet with them first to talk about “Those Shoes.” Then each class will; get the story read to them by a high school student, hear about the new sneakers donation, and have a book left in their classroom.”  (Laurie told me that the Friends of the Newbury Town Library are buying the books for the classrooms.)

“The new sneakers that are received during the weeks that follow will be brought to our library and stacked in the meeting room,” said Laurie. 

The end of the new sneaker collecting will be during April vacation and coincide with the visit of Wally the Green Monster to the library.  “Last year Wally was here and we had 200 people come through in an hour,” recalled Laurie.  “We’re hoping that this year, when he comes, people will bring new sneakers to donate and Wally will help us do a countdown of how many we have collected.”

Laurie informed me that a clearinghouse agency for local children’s services called, Cradles to Crayons, would distribute the donated sneakers. 

Laurie was quick to commend the cooperation from Triton.  “Joe Colbert (community service director) and Kevin McLaughlin (principal) are important in this project because they will organize and bring the students to the classrooms,” said Laurie. 

Newbury Elementary School assistant principal Elizabeth Boulanger told me that the staff there was excited about being involved.  “NES is enthusiastically looking forward to the visiting readers and for the opportunity to participate in this community service project.”

In a description online, the author (Maribeth Boelts) explains that the idea for the story came as years later she recalled being a substitute teacher and witnessing a student caught in a situation similar to the one she later wrote about in “Those Shoes.”

I sent an email to Maribeth Boelts (she lives in the Midwest) telling her about the community service project.  She wrote back, “I was so honored to learn that “Those Shoes” prompted Laurie Collins to organize and lead this fun and worthy event.  It’s always touching to see an act of generosity like this, particularly when children are involved in the giving.”

Laurie told me that the best part in this project is that “a piece of literature is driving the whole thing.  That’s the most exciting part because that’s what we do here.”

It is said that, “A true charity is something that touches you personally.”  If that is the case then some Newbury students will be going out and buying new sneakers………but not for themselves.

( Prepared for publication in The Town Common on March 18th. )

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