The United States is an affluent society, running water is an afterthought, the indecision on what to eat for lunch can become somewhat of a struggle, and we possess the ability to have clothing shipped to our front door.

However, in a country that rewards the prosperous, the Caribbean-American and American projects that fund development in Caribbean countries are often criticized. There is certainly always a need for philanthropy in the US, should Americans come first?

After going on a vacation to Honduras, Gateway Center Director of Development Melissa Walchli said she wanted to help underprivileged people in the Caribbean.

“In the third-world countries, there are a lot of people who don’t have shoes,” Walchli said. “I’ve seen people with milk jugs on their feet, tied on with raffia. I’ve seen people up on scaffolding with flip-flops or barefoot.”

Through an online organization called Funds to Org, Walchli and volunteers from the Gateway Center and the community geared up to gather as many pairs of shoes as they could.

“These consumers that live here have helped bag these shoes,” Walchli said. “We have a lot of new volunteers, a lot of new support and, you know, the shoes are really going to pay it forward.”

Monterey County residents donated more than 3,000 pairs of shoes sent in April, but the second shoe project shipment of more than 6,000 pairs of shoes went out on a truck Saturday. The total number of shoes sent so far has reached to more than 9,000 pairs.

People in Haiti and other Caribbean countries will receive the shoes to wear or sell for profit. One volunteer said he volunteers because he knows the impact of getting shoes is great.

“Well shoes are important especially in third world countries,” volunteer Jonathan Shu said.  “The weather is really hot and without the shoes, it’s almost impossible to even walk and shoes are expensive and getting a new shoe was a big highlight when I was growing up.”

Gateway Center of Monterey County, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit community based organization which provides a wide range of services, including residential care, developmental training, and activity programs for adults ages 18 and over, with intellectual disabilities.