As 2015 began, one Sister of St. Joseph launched a yearlong effort to gather 1,650 pairs of shoes for people in need on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Sister Beth Weddle’s idea, which she named “St. Joseph’s Shoes,” would honor the patron saint of the congregation of Catholic women religious and mark the date of its founding in southern France — 1650. But that number was reached within about the first two months, so Sister Beth came up with a new goal: 2,015 pairs of shoes in 2015.
On Friday, May 1, just four months after launching the effort, the Concordia woman stood among the scores of boxes that make up the fourth shipment to the reservation this year and called St. Joseph’s Shoes a success.
Thanks to several drives organized by schools and churches, the tally is nearly 2,200 pairs of shoes.
Those efforts were organized by parishioners at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Clyde and St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Marysville and students at Sacred Heart Junior/Senior High School in Salina and St. Xavier Catholic School in Junction City.
“They brought in shoes by the hundreds,” Sister Beth said with some wonder Friday morning. Scores of individuals and other organizations also contributed shoes to the effort.
Sister Beth was working in the Concordia garage that had become the staging area for St. Joseph’s Shoes as two employees of the Sisters of St. Joseph — Curtis Mansfield and Keith Sells — loaded a van for what is the fourth delivery since Jan. 1. When she and Sister Susan Stoeber head to Mission, S.D., and the Tree of Life Relief Agency there next week, they will be carrying 800 pairs of shoes, about two dozen prom dresses, plus boxes and bags of children’s clothing and a full-size mattress and box spring.
And while Sister Beth plans to continue gathering donations for Tree of Life, she will do it on a much smaller scale: “The need is still there, but no more big organized drives,” she said Friday morning.
The Tree of Life Relief Agency has been working with people of the Sioux Nation on the reservation since 1985. Although it is sponsored by the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church, it is multi-denominational and cross-cultural. Through its Volunteers-in-Mission program, workers from more than a dozen denominations from across the United States spend time there every year.
For more on the agency and its work, go to treeofliferelief.org.