People in Plainfield Township, who live across the street from the Wolverine Worldwide dumpsite on House Street, collected shoes Saturday from those who don't want to own the company's products anymore and donated them to charity.
The "Vote With Your Feet," shoe drive is a response to Wolverine Worldwide's handing of widespread water contamination in Kent County. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, wells at 180 homes in the township contain PFAS, a suspected carcinogen used by Wolverine in its Scotchgard product until 2002.
Neighbors and friends are refusing to wear Wolverine shoes, said Sandy Wynn-Stelt, who organized the event. Wynn-Sytelt's home at 1850 House Street tested at 38,000 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFAS. The Environmental Protection Agency's lifetime safe drinking water advisory for the chemicals is 70 ppt.
"People this time of year really need some good shoes, and Wolverine makes really, really good shoes," Wynn-Stelt said. "Just a lot of us in this area can't tolerate wearing them right now. We thought we would donate them to a good cause."
Wynn-Stelt and neighbors collected shoes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and will do the same next Saturday, Dec. 9. Donation boxes are also located at Tillman's Dining in Grand Rapids and Wilson and Wynn Intervention in Walker.
Donations will go to three charities: North Kent Service Center, Servants Center and Mel Trotter Ministries.
"That's all this was...a way to help people turn some anger and frustration into something positive," Wynn-Stelt said. "If we get 20 shoes, if we get 50 shoes, if we get 100 shoes, that means there's people that are disadvantaged that are going to have good, solid, warm winter boots to wear."
The shoe drive is also a bonding moment for the neighbors dealing with the contamination, said Andy Debski, who lives down the street from Wynn-Stelt.
"Yeah we met all the people in crisis time, so it's kind of a win-lose situation," Debski said. "But we all came together in a time of crisis, and we're working through it...raising awareness, plus it's going to a good cause."
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