2008-07-26 / Top News

Grassroots Effort Provides Necessities to Island Workers in Need

By Allison Levy

"Lemonade, mini-golf, and a waterless bike wash! Help support our Island workers!" David Culliton of Mackinac Island and Livonia advertises his cause to passersby July 10. Helping out with the effort were Molly Tokarz, Will Barnwell, Emily Modd, Mitch Steiner, Anna McDonnell, Diana Dupre, Hailey Armstrong, Dana Roguska, Carolyn Phillips, and Audie Murray, all of Mackinac Island, as well as Blake Glinn of St. Clair Shores, Maxi Tanquary of Chandler, Arizona, and Katie Donnelly of Houston, Texas. "Lemonade, mini-golf, and a waterless bike wash! Help support our Island workers!" David Culliton of Mackinac Island and Livonia advertises his cause to passersby July 10. Helping out with the effort were Molly Tokarz, Will Barnwell, Emily Modd, Mitch Steiner, Anna McDonnell, Diana Dupre, Hailey Armstrong, Dana Roguska, Carolyn Phillips, and Audie Murray, all of Mackinac Island, as well as Blake Glinn of St. Clair Shores, Maxi Tanquary of Chandler, Arizona, and Katie Donnelly of Houston, Texas. By Allison Levy

When Gretchen Colman of Naples, Florida, returned to Mackinac Island in June, prepared for her seventh summer of employment, she brought with her a new pair of work shoes. She discovered they didn't fit, but instead of throwing them in the closet, the Pink Pony waitress gave the shoes to a Chippewa Hotel housekeeper from the Philippines, who had arrived here with little more than the shoes on her feet.

Thus began the grassroots effort dubbed Soles for Souls (not related to the national nonprofit Soles4Souls), which aims to provide Island workers in need with basic necessities. The effort gained momentum when Miss Colman recounted her story to a friend and the next day, a box full of clothing showed up on her doorstep.

This sort of spontaneity has played a large role in the development of the project. As Miss Colman told her story to more of her acquaintances, more donations arrived on her doorstep. A friend, Christi Dupre, suggested she share the idea with the older children attending Vacation Bible School from July 9 through 13 at Ste. Anne's Church.

The children at the Bible School brainstormed ways to raise money for the program, and settled on a lemonade stand, mini-golf course, and waterless bike wash. In two days, they raised $270.

"Most of the money was given from the heart," said one of the Bible School teachers, Molly Carroll. She noted that some donors contributed $10 or $20. "It was amazing."

Unlike other charities, where nameless people in faraway lands receive goods from faceless donors, Miss Colman hopes that Soles for Souls can serve as a connection point for the Mackinac Island community.

"We work side-by-side with all these international workers in need," Miss Colman said, "but we may not know them at all."

Foreign workers comprise a significant portion of the Island's summer workforce, up to 50% at some businesses, and Miss Colman said the children quickly recognized a need to help this segment of the community. They decided to focus on a small population of Island workers, the housekeepers who spend full days on their feet but often don't have proper footwear. The children approached the heads of housekeeping from several hotels and asked if they knew any employees who truly needed something to put on their feet.

"One woman we found was working with holes in her shoes," Mrs. Dupre said. "She couldn't afford anything else. I don't think we always realize how little some international workers come here with."

The children will work with Mrs. Dupre and Miss Colman to purchase the shoes, and will solicit discounted prices from Island merchants. They hope to personally deliver each pair of shoes to forge connections with the community they are benefiting.

People with shoes or clothing they would like to donate to the project can reach Miss Colman at 847-6477.

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