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SOLES AND SOULS: Sister Nora, Stillpoint rev up back-to-school shoe drive

BRADENTON — Laura Zavala will be getting new shoes for school this year. Pretty nice gift for the 6-year-old whose parents are migrant farmworkers.

But they won’t be just any shoes she’ll pick up in July, thanks to Stillpoint House of Prayer’s annual program that collects money to provide a pair of shoes for local migrant farmworker children.

“I want pink shoes,” Laura said. “And the best color of pink is hot pink.”

Sister Nora Brick of the church began working with migrants in 1975. She started in Ruskin, then went to Wauchula, and finally Bradenton.

Brick is asking local churches to collect money for the shoes. In July, the children will go to a Payless ShoeSource to pick out their shoes.

“The shoes are better fitted that way,” Brick said. “And at least they’ll get to go back to school with a new pair of shoes.”

Migrant farmworker children are a vulnerable population, and many live a transient lifestyle. Brick said most of the local migrant children who will be helped come from Mexico. Typically, their families were farmworkers who migrated to the United States for better employment opportunities. The majority are poor.

Laura and her mother, Eliud Valencia, are from Guanajuato, Mexico. Laura’s father is in a U.S. jail.

These are the people Brick has been helping for years. Thirteen year ago, Brick also started the Project Light literacy center, just up the road from the House of Prayer on 14th Street West. “So many (migrants) could not read or write,” Brick said.

Brick said she could not have helped so many migrant children for well over a decade without help from Manatee County residents.

“The people of this county have been very generous,” Brick said, “and I want to thank them for all these years of being so faithful to the shoes program for all these years.”

Those who want to donate can mail a check to: Stillpoint House of Prayer, P.O. Box 619, Bradenton 34206.

Nick Walter, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7013.

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