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Wilmington library sends shoes to soldiers

WILMINGTON - It started with an email from a medic stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan working in the NATO Trauma Center. Dawn Hicks, from North Carolina, regularly updates friends on her days spent tending to critically wounded soldiers and her experiences in Kandahar. Judi Gould, one of the Wilmington E.M. Cooper Library Trustees, receives Dawn's updates. In this particular email, Dawn explained that often the soldiers coming into the trauma center are stripped of their clothes and boots are cut off as they are flown by helicopter to be treated, then are transported to a longer-term care hospital. She mentioned the need for comfortable clothing and shoes, specifically Crocs, for the soldiers to wear while being transported.

Gould decided to research the Crocs Company to see if they would consider donating shoes to the soldiers. What she found was quite impressive. Crocs, headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, manufactures soft, comfortable, lightweight clog-type shoes. Giving back is a strong part of Crocs culture. Since 2007, 2.5 million pairs of shoes have been distributed to impoverished areas. Crocs has partnered with non-profit organizations such as UNICEF and Feed the Children with the goal of reducing skin infections, parasites and cuts acquired through lack of foot protection by providing shoes to those in need.

Melissa Koester, program specialist in charge of Crocs giving, was contacted and reacted enthusiastically about donating to this cause. Through many varied organizations, Crocs has responded to requests specifically for our troops. In working out the details to have the shoes shipped, it was easiest to work through a non-profit organization. The Board of Trustees of the Wilmington E.M. Cooper Library, a non-profit organization, stepped up to the plate and wanted to get involved, along with Library Director, Samantha Baer. Wilmington Postmistress Merri Carol Peck agreed to receive the shipment of Crocs at the local post office and then assisted in forwarding the shoes to the APO address for their ultimate destination of the NATO Hospital in Kandahar.

On Friday, Dec. 3, four large boxes containing 50 pairs of Crocs were shipped off. Additionally, because of that one email, hand-knit specialty "socks" for amputees are being made by local ladies and sent to this same hospital. Jane Peck has spearheaded this project and plans to keep knitting through the winter.

"Any day we can help our troops is a good day" Peck said. Indeed, it is, agrees all those who lent a hand in making this donation happen!

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