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January 24, 2014

Area student, 16, starts shoe-donation charity

By Greg Klein The Cooperstown Crier
The Daily Star

---- — Most 16-year-olds don’t have their own charity organization. Cooperstown junior Christina Noto is the exception.

Noto started Soles to Share a year ago as part of a class project, and is now taking steps to make the shoe-donation group an official charity.

“I’d been to a couple of leadership conferences that talked about starting your own organization,” she said. “I came up with this idea because of the amount of shoes that we throw out that are in pretty good condition. The amount of shoes that we just throw out makes me pretty sad.”

Noto said that she had a pile of her own shoes that she had outgrown. At first, the pile sat in her bedroom. Then she started stacking them outside her bedroom door. Eventually the pile outgrew her family’s house.

“We have a barn full of shoes,” her father, CCS teacher Glen Noto, joked.

Noto said she was encouraged to start Soles to Share by CCS health teacher Justin Hobbie. After a few stops and starts, she found more help and encouragement from other teachers, her dad and mom, Mary Velez, and finally CCS athletic director Monica Wolfe.

Wolfe started the CCS Athletic Leadership Group in 2012, also known as Habitudes, about the same time Noto started Soles to Share.

“In Habitudes, I remember talking about it in one of our lessons,” Wolfe said. “We focus on community service. When she told me about this, I thought it was an awesome idea. It was a really great way for her to follow through.”

Now the CCS athletic department has joined Noto in her efforts. Four winter sports teams will collect shoes as part of their senior nights: volleyball Jan. 29, wrestling Jan. 30, boys basketball Feb. 3 and girls basketball Feb. 7.

Anyone who brings an old pair of “gently used” shoes to donate will receive free admission to the game, meet or match. The shoes should be tied together and labeled with the appropriate size.

Noto and her supporters are finalizing a plan to distribute the donations.

“We haven’t fully decided that yet,” she said. “We are thinking about doing a shoe swap, where people can trade shoes. Of course, we also want it to be anonymous and we want to protect people in the community who might be in need. So we have also talked about just donating the shoes to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.”

Noto has set up a Facebook page for Soles to Share and designed a logo for the organization herself. Hobbie and her English teacher, Adam Cox, have been helping her set up the official charity organization, get tax exempt and 501(C)3 status.

Her teammates and classmates have been pitching in too. “Of course, I can’t do this alone,” she said. “So many people have been helping. Everyone has been so positive. Everyone has been really, really amazing. No one has shut this down or told me why it can’t work. Everyone has been giving us ideas about how to make it better.”

Added Wolfe: “What is amazing to me is to see a student have a big idea, and then put it into practice. She has been able to see that she can’t do it alone, that she does need help, and then to see where to go to get help. She has been able to take the whole process of what we are teaching and apply it to her idea.”