Granite City High School seniors Brooke LeVault and Gaby Magana weren't shopping for shoes among the pairs of sequin-studded slip-ons and Hello Kitty! Crocs.
The two 18-year-olds were hard at work on their hands and knees sorting pairs and banding them together for donation to the Shoeman Water Project. It was all in a day's work for the two "Working Warriors." LeVault and Magana have been members of the school's Working Warriors Club for three years.
"Just to see the joy on people's faces," LeVault said of why she is part of the club. "That we, in high school, are trying to help out and do the right thing. That's a really good feeling."
The Working Warriors began as a business club, said sponsor Christie Moad, and morphed into a community service organization four years ago.
"We wanted to do some community service and the students said, 'Well, if we're going to be working, why not put that in there?'" said Moad, who also teaches in the school's business department. "I think so many of our students don't realize it's needed to give back to the community. I do have a lot of kids who want to give back."
The club's 75-80 members work on one large service project each month. Their past projects have included working at local elementary schools. Working Warriors have staffed the Prather Elementary School's Sock Hop, Worthen Elementary School's Math and Science Fair, fall festivals at Maryville and Niedringhaus elementary schools, the Mitchell Elementary School's Santa Night and Grigsby Middle School's eighth-grade Formal. The club will be gearing up for its March of Dimes project in March soon.
In addition to helping out within the Granite City School District, the club collected canned goods for a local food pantry and adopted part of St. Clair Avenue last November.
This January's drive for the Shoeman Water Project collected about 500 pairs of shoes that will be donated to help finance clean water projects internationally. Last year, the club collected 1,400 pairs of shoes for the project.
"It is a lot of work," Moad said, helping her students sort the shoes.
"Smells like old shoes," LeVault noted as she paired shoes.
LeVault, of Pontoon Beach, got involved with the Working Warriors after hearing it about it and liked its emphasis on working in the community.
"You feel better about doing it locally, doing it at home," she said. "You're helping out your town."
Helping others came naturally to Magana, of Granite City, who had begun helping out at home first, cleaning and doing other chores to lighten the load for her parents..
"I'm a helping person," Magana said, "so I just decided to help out. I understand how hard they work. Now that I work, I understand how it feels."
Three years later, both girls said they enjoyed the club's work in Granite City's elementary school and that the work has led both to consider careers in nursing. LeVault has been accepted to the nursing program at the University of Missouri -- St. Louis, while Magana is still looking for schools.
As they sorted the mateless red tennis shoes and children's roller skates that were mixed in with the donations, Moad teased the two girls.
"See any shoes you like?" Moad asked.
"No! No!" LeVault quickly answered.