MARQUETTE - Members of Negaunee High School's Key Club see something altogether different than most people when they look at a pair of old, worn-out athletic shoes.
They see a basketball court or maybe a track or other athletic surface that can be used by people who may not otherwise have access to those types of things.
"Community service is an area where our kids need to be participating," said Helen Grossman, chemistry and math teacher at NHS.
Negaunee High School sophomore Taylor Dewitt, left, receives a pair of old athletic shoes from sophomore April Walimaa at the Negaunee girls basketball game Thursday evening. The shoes will be given to Nike, which will recycle them into athletic flooring, such as a basketball court, for underprivileged neighborhoods. (Photo courtesy of Vickie Paupore)
Grossman, who is also adviser to the Key Club, said the school has been collecting shoes for about three years, but this is the first year the Key Club has facilitated the collection.
The Key Club is a service organization sponsored by the Kiwanis Club.
"It's an offshoot of the Kiwanis Club that does all sorts of community service activities," Grossman said. "Our main focus is on youth, global health issues, literacy issues, issues of poverty and equality."
The group collected shoes at the junior varsity and varsity girls basketball games Thursday evening, and will be at both boys basketball games this evening to collect more shoes.
The boys games start at 6:15 p.m. and will be in the Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium.
People who drop off the shoes will receive a ticket for a drawing that could win them a free tote bag.
Global shoe giant Nike takes the shoes and turns them into athletic playing surfaces, which are then placed in underprivileged neighborhoods.
With three years of shoe collection under their belts, the NHS students are no strangers to community service work that extends far beyond the lines of their community.
"Our track coach is the one who found out about the recycling project to help underprivileged neighborhoods in the United States," Grossman said. "Our regional recycling club was known as the Global Awareness Club. They did things with worldwide environmental awareness, things that affected areas internationally that were impoverished.
"It started with a couple of exchange students that had gone to Bolivia. They started a soup kitchen that trained people to develop a skill, to market some product and provide for their families. That was the beginning of what formed at our high school."
Since that time, NHS students have held fundraisers for helping the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Japan and, closer to home, Hurricane Katrina.
Grossman said along with instilling in students a sense of community and the need for community service, not only on a local but also a global scale, the importance of environmental preservation is a priority.
"As part of an educated society, there's been so much in the news about climate change and the impact students have on their environment," Grossman said. "That's part of what we're obligated to teach, is preserving what we have and trying to improve our world as well."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.