Fruit Heights Youth City Council’s shoe drive gathers thousands of shoesMay 06, 2022 02:49PM ● By Peri Kinder
It all started as a joke. For Christmas, Darren Groberg’s Fruit Heights neighbors sent out a flyer telling people that for every pair of shoes tied to the Groberg’s tree outside their home, the Grobergs would donate a new pair of shoes to a nonprofit.
Groberg, a foot and ankle surgeon, wound up with dozens of shoes in his front yard. It spurred his wife, Jennifer, to research places that accepted shoe donations. She discovered Soles4Souls, a nonprofit organization that provides shoes to third-world countries.
The Groberg’s daughter, Adlen, took the idea and organized a citywide donation drive, asking for gently used shoes. As a member of the Fruit Heights Youth City Council, Adlen, a sophomore at Davis High School, placed donation boxes at schools, organizations, and businesses all around the city.
“We gathered so many more shoes than we initially thought we would,” Adlen said. “I did not expect that the boxes would be literally overflowing with shoes when I went to pick them up twice a day.”
Fruit Heights residents stepped up to the plate in March, donating nearly 7,000 pairs of shoes to the drive. Adlen’s aunt, Jeanne Groberg, serves as a Fruit Heights city council member and youth council liaison.
“People brought bags and boxes and filled up the donation boxes,” Jeanne said. “People have a lot of shoes hanging around. There was just a great response.”
Soles4Souls collects shoes in good condition and helps women in poor countries start a small business, selling shoes to the community. It also keeps millions of pounds of discarded shoes out of landfills.
“It was all because of that silly prank that we’ve been able to do this. I’ve loved spearheading this project,” Adlen said. “I have definitely not done it alone. It has been a huge community and family effort. I give the most praise to my mom for kind of starting it all.”
Paula Stephenson has served as a youth city council advisor for three years. She said the youth council is a good way for teens to get involved in their community and learn how to make a difference.
“These kids are really the cream of the crop,” Stephenson said. “For those we’ve seen for two or three years, there’s been a lot of growth. Our current youth council mayor started as a sophomore. They just step right up to the plate.”
Youth council members receive voter education and vote in a mock election the day before the municipal election in November. They are also involved in community service like the shoe drive. On Memorial Day weekend, the Fruit Heights Youth City Council partners with the American Legion to place American flags on the graves of veterans.
Starting in June, applications will be accepted for youth to become part of the council. Applicants must be in high school and a resident of Fruit Heights. Applications can be found at FruitHeightsCity.com
“We teach them what they need to do and how to speak up. It’s just amazing,” Stephenson said. “They learn how to work with adults and the city council and how to be youth leaders in the city. And they do have a voice.”λ