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First Sergeants go distance to share shoes

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Master Sgt. Tracy Tolliver, the 30th Force Support Squadron first sergeant, along with Master Sgt. Paul Barker, a first sergeant from the 30th Medical Group, unload boxes full of shoes in support of the Shoes to Share program April 2. The shoes are sent to villagers and students residing in the Hwange region of Zimbabwe. Approximately 50 boxes were donated by Vandenberg’s local community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Thomas)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Master Sgt. Tracy Tolliver, the 30th Force Support Squadron first sergeant, along with Master Sgt. Paul Barker, a first sergeant from the 30th Medical Group, unload boxes full of shoes in support of the Shoes to Share program April 2. The shoes are sent to villagers and students residing in the Hwange region of Zimbabwe. Approximately 50 boxes were donated by Vandenberg’s local community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Representatives from Vandenberg's First Sergeants Association traveled to Sacramento, Calif., April 2 to drop off approximately 50 boxes full of shoes donated in support of the Shoes to Share program.

Master Sgt. Tracy Tolliver, the 30th Force Support Squadron first sergeant, Master Sgt. Paul Barker, a first sergeant from the 30th Medical Group, and Margo Viers, a 30th Civil Engineer Squadron contractor, transported the shoes to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Sbeih whose daughter Nadia had previously arranged for the shoes to be sent to villagers and students residing in the Hwange region of Zimbabwe.

"Our Daughter went to Zimabwe a few months ago and encountered a very different culture, destitute with poverty," said Moe Sbeih, Nadia's father. "The poverty was to the extent that the women of the village were asking Nadia for her clothes. Nadia ended up giving the villagers all the clothing she had in exchange for a cloth sheet she had draped over herself. She was so impressed by the shear poverty of Zimbabwe; she decided she wanted to help."

It was during a conversation with a local Hwange teacher that Nadia learned what the villagers needed the most-shoes. The conversation inspired her to collect enough shoes so that every student in the village would have a pair.

On Nadia's return to the U.S., she notified her friend Ms. Viers about her plans to begin collecting shoes for the villagers. Ms. Viers quickly called upon the first sergeants for help.

"When we heard about the Shoes to Share program, we saw the program as an opportunity to help others in need," said Master Sgt. Tolliver. "As first sergeants, that is what we do, we help people. So when we heard about the Shoes to Share program, we knew that we wanted to be actively involved."

The first sergeants were graciously greeted by the Sbeih family upon arrival. The boxes were swiftly off-loaded and muscled into the Sbeih's garage. The first sergeants donations supplemented an existing collection of shoes Nadia has been collecting since her trip to Zimbabwe.

Once the final box was neatly stacked into place, the Sbeih's invited the first sergeants into their home for a home-cooked meal. The couple shared stories about their daughter's experiences in Africa and her strong desire to give back to the villagers of Hwange.

The Sbeih's spoke enthusiastically in support of their daughter's and the first sergeants charitable efforts.

Nadia has arranged for a kayaking company to ship the shoes to Zimbabwe and have them distributed to the residents of Hwange.