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GGC professor collects 1,600 pairs of shoes for charity

Special Photo Douglas Johnson, a professor at Georgia Gwinnett College, recently collected 1,600 pairs of shoes for charity.

Special Photo Douglas Johnson, a professor at Georgia Gwinnett College, recently collected 1,600 pairs of shoes for charity.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Douglas Johnson of Georgia Gwinnett College has quite a shoe collection: 1,600 pairs at last count.

As part of a service-learning project, Johnson and his students took on the challenge of collecting shoes for the nonprofit organization Soles4Souls.

Johnson became aware of the organization through the college's fall semester Common Reading Initiative, in which the book "The Blue Sweater" recommended that shoes be collected to assist in the fight against poverty.

Soles4Souls collects new shoes to give relief to victims of abject suffering, and gently used shoes to support microbusiness efforts to eradicate poverty around the world.

"This program aligned well with my plans for a service-learning project in the Essentials of Leadership course," said Johnson, an associate professor of management. He designed the project to enhance management skills, decision-making, goal-setting and team skills.

Johnson divided his students into teams of five, each of which set goals and worked within the community and on campus to collect footwear. Students also had to write reports and make class presentations about their efforts.

Boxes, bags and cartons full of shoes poured in -- everything from Nike sneakers to infant bunny slippers. The students would surpass their goals by more than 1,000 pairs.

"Dr. Doug," as he is fondly known to his students, was honored during the college's fall semester convocation as the first faculty member to receive all four faculty excellence awards.

Since 2009, Johnson has received awards recognizing excellence in scholarship and creative activities, student engagement, service and teaching. Award recipients are selected by a committee of faculty, staff and students.