Ivana Warren loves to give back in any way she can.
“For school projects and supply drives, she’ll give everything away,” said Ilane Warren, her mother. “I’m like, ‘OK, you know you need supplies for school, too.’”
That’s why at a camp through DeKalb County parks and recreation last summer, Ivana was inspired to start Shoes for Change, a shoe drive collecting gently used pairs to send to people in Africa. A man, originally from Africa, talked about his experience collecting and donating shoes.
Ivana was recently recognized by Kohl’s Cares, the philanthropic arm of Kohl’s department stores.
She received a $1,000 scholarship based on her record of volunteering.
“At Kohl’s we believe in giving back to our communities, and we are delighted to honor the more than 2,300 local level winners nationwide who have given their time and talent to do just that,” said Bevin Bailis, Kohl’s senior vice president of communications and public relations, in a statement. “Through their service these youth are truly making a positive impact on their communities.”
After hearing the man speak at her summer camp, Ivana said she wasn’t interested at first in collecting shoes.
“But then I started to ask my church, and when I asked they donated shoes,” she said. “I was like, ‘OK, maybe I should just keep going with the project.’”
At Community Fellowship, the church the Warrens attend, there is a strong focus on service. Ilane said they try to involve Ivana in the community by doing good works. For example, last Christmas, the family went to a local shelter to give gifts to homeless children.
Ivana is a, rising seventh-grader at PATH Academy, where she likes science and language arts. Ilane said she is just the chauffer to her daughter’s project.
“Not only did she ask people for shoes at church, but we could be at the grocery store, or the salon, we could be anywhere and she would ask,” Ilane said. “Twelve and 1 o’clock in the morning, we’re going to pick up shoes from people. Can you imagine being in the grocery store and a total complete stranger comes up to you and asks, ‘Hi, I’m collecting shoes for people that don’t have any shoes. Do you have any extra shoes you don’t wear, and they need to be comfortable.’”
So far, Ivana has collected and sent, via the person who spoke at her summer camp, more than 700 pairs of shoes to Africans in need. Ilane said she personally touched every single pair, from children’s to adults’ pairs, and tied the laces together so they wouldn’t get separated in shipping.
Ivana said she may use the $1,000 to go to Georgia Southern University—her family members are fans—either to be a singer or a journalist. But she will always be interested in service.
“We think about us over here, we’re blessed, but we don’t think about people over there or kids in Africa who need our shoes,” Ivana said. “We can go out and buy shoes, but people in [some parts of] Africa don’t really have the money to.”
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