Corbin High School Social Studies teacher Cheryl Tinsley said Corbin has been participating with the WaterStep program for seven years. It all started with Tinsley’s two sons and Lauren Shackleford’s, the current leader of the program, older brother.
“It’s really not a difficult program to keep up as long as you keep up with the donations,” said Shackleford.
The program consists of collecting shoes that are then taken to the WaterStep headquarters in Louisville. The shoes are either sold or recycled, so the profits can be used for water equipment.
WaterStep started with water balls.
Director of the Shoe Program Derek Howard said when you see thephotos of little girls with the five-gallon buckets of water being carried on their heads, that is approximately 40 pounds. After carrying the water for so long, the spine starts to compress. When they get to the age of giving birth, many of the ladies die because of the hip dysplasia caused by the compression, said Howard.
With a water ball, the girls can push or pull 12.5 gallons of water without having to physically carry it. The increased capacity means that fewer trips to the wells are necessary, so the girls have more time for school.
Shackleford reflected on her time at the helm of the program by saying, “It’s going to a good cause, so I figured it was worth it [to keep the program going].”
“I think it [favorite part of the program] is just the fact that we get to bring in so many donations from people that recognize the cause and are willing to give what they can to help,” said Shackleford.
She said that the group normally puts donation boxes in all of the schools, as well as in churches and other community locations.
Shackleford said this year was a bit different as most of the donations came from the Matthew Ministry at Central Baptist Church as well as the community yard sale.
It was estimated between 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of shoes were donated.
“It is [the community of] Corbin that has created the amount of shoes that have come from here. The first year it was 500-700 pounds at the most. The next year it grew,” said Howard. He said the program continued to grow until right before COVID.
Since the beginning of the program, Howard said he estimates the group has collected well over 14,000 pairs of shoes.