Uhrhammer sisters take a big step with Soles for Souls campaign

by Gabrielle McElyea, STAFF WRITER
12 December 2018


The garage door slides up. Behind its shield over a thousand shoes consume the emptiness of the room. Tennis shoes tied together with its pair, heels stand next to a saucy partner, flip flops lay on top of another. This scene is a window into the service two sisters hold close to them. This is Soles for Souls.

The season of giving is one that too often goes under the radar. With so many forgetting about being truly selfless during the holidays means, many often do not help those who are less fortunate in their community. For senior Ellie Urhammer the season of giving means putting your own wants aside and looking to help others.

“[To me] it means to reach outside the community and give back. It can be locally or globally, more like an outreach. It means to give to people that you don’t necessarily know, but people who really need it,” Ellie said.

Ellie and her sophomore sister Grace Urhammer took on the challenge of collecting shoes to send to those who are less fortunate in third world countries. The organization, Soles for Souls is a non-profit charity who works to supply shoes to children and adults in places where it is a luxury to have what we see as a basic necessity.

“Seeing how many shoes the schools collected [amazed us], because we had only given them a box for the front office. Driving around and having a giant car full of shoes [was really cool], we had to make multiple trips. We had 1200 plus pairs of shoes,” Ellie said.

The idea for doing a project like this came from Grace. Ellie explained how Grace and her had discussed wanting to doing a service project together. Grace took the initiative and did research and came across Soles for Souls.

“Shoes are an essential thing that I [believe] everyone should have. So Ellie and I felt that this was a really important thing. I always remember doing shoe drive in elementary school, and it was always something we did a lot but never really having this large of an impact,” Grace said.


VIDEO by Gabrielle McElyea & Ben Schmidt


Doing service for the community isn’t out of the norm for these sisters, it runs in their blood. Ellie and Grace often do community service.

“I volunteer at the Humane Society. There are a lot of animals and I take them to a nursing home so they can interact with the residents and both can feel comfort,” Grace said.

Ellie has a history with being in Girl Scouts and has been able to find a lot of opportunities through the organization to help others.

“A lot of [what I do] is pet related. I mostly bringing service dogs and dogs from shelters to nursing homes and working on getting them certified. There’s not a lot of dogs out there for service jobs like hospitals and such,” Ellie said.

With many students involved with clubs, that require service hours, and are also looking to earn the service achievement cord upon graduation, Ellie and Grace offered some advice for finding opportunities to give back.

Grace explained that a good start would be to take a look at the things in your life that you have and maybe take for granted. She said that this could offer a good starting point for thinking about what could those who are less fortunate need.

“I would start by thinking about yourself. Like what do you have that maybe other people don’t. It can be simple things that you don’t really think very much about, so that you have to take a step back to open your point of view,” Grace said.

Ellie gave a few examples of good resources that students could refer to when looking for service opportunities.

“Just reach out and ask adults. I was lucky enough to be in Girl Scouts, so the majority of my hours came from that. You could do it through extracurricular activities, like band they give you a lot of community service hours,” Ellie said. “Churches are also great. I play guitar with my church and got a bunch of hours doing that too.”

The charitable pair of sisters offer the East community a reminder that a small idea can make a large impact. Ellie and Grace were able to collect over 1200 pairs of shoes to send to struggling families and individuals in countries like Honduras, Guatemala, and other third world countries.



Gabrielle McElyea is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl.