East Grand Forks church to host fundraiser to protect African children from debilitating foot parasite

Proceeds will be used to support the charity, Sole Hope, which provides shoes for children in rural areas of east Africa where parasitic jiggers prevent them from playing or attending school.

September 20, 2023 – GRAND FORKS, MN – Mendenhall Presbyterian Church in East Grand Forks is hosting the “Sole Hope Fundraiser” at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30.

The event will feature performances by several area professional musicians and a meal donated and catered by Elias Dean, owner of Chino Latino and Steers in Grand Forks, topped off with a variety of desserts baked by the ladies of the church.

The meal will be served from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Music performances are set for 6:15 to 7:45 p.m.

Tickets are: $15 for adults and $5 for children ages 3 to 10, in advance, and $17 for adults and $7 for children ages 3 to 10 at the door. Tickets may be purchased in person at Mendenhall Presbyterian Church at 528 10th St. N.W., via Facebook, or by texting (701) 248-0227 for Venmo and Paypal purchase options.

Proceeds from the event will be used to support the charity, Sole Hope, which provides shoes for children in rural areas of east Africa where jiggers prevent them from playing or attending school. Jiggers are sand fleas that burrow into bare skin as kids play or walk, then reproduce, causing pain and making walking impossible, said Jenn Kolodka, office administrator for Mendenhall Presbyterian Church.

Here's an example of the denim shoes that will be provided to east African children by the Sole Hope charity, which will benefit from the Saturday, Sept. 30, fundraising event at Mendenhall Presbyterian Church in East Grand Forks. The shoes will prevent children from getting jiggers that burrow into their bare feet and prevent them from walking, playing and oftentimes from attending school.

Children with jiggers are often ostracized and barred from school, due to the mistaken belief that they have a contagious disease. Afflicted adults are prevented from going to work, said Kolodka, who likened the situation to how those with leprosy were cast out of society years ago.

The foot parasites present a significant health problem in tropical and subtropical regions of east Africa, where people often play or work barefoot, or live in homes with dirt floors, she said. A recent public health study revealed that one in five people there are affected by jiggers.

“But jiggers are so easily treated,” Kolodka said. “They just have to be sterilely removed and you have to wear shoes to avoid getting them in the first place. If only the people knew, we could totally eradicate this problem (for these) children and families.”

“Not often in life can you change someone’s life for $35,” the cost of two tickets to the event, she said. That $35 will cover the cost of medical treatment, education and a pair of shoes for someone who is unable to play or work in their home community.

About 10 members of Mendenhall’s quilting group have cut enough denim to make more than 130, Mary Jane-style shoes in children’s size 3 – the size Sole Hope requested, Kolodka said. The denim has been donated by area churches. The women, who've been working Mondays all summer, include Cindy Barrett, Eva Love, Loretta Grissom, Janet Sjol, Kathy Cumming, Lorraine Love, Gail Schrage and Pat Twedell. Schrage got the idea for the project from her Rotary Club in Colorado, where she spends the winter, and brought it to Mendenhall.

The shoes will be assembled by Sole Hope, which will add the soles – made of used tires – and distribute them to African children, she said. Founded in 2010, Sole Hope has a perfect four-star Charity Navigator rating.

“The community has really come together for this event … to help children in Africa live ‘jigger-free,’ ” Kolodka said.

Numerous local businesses have donated gift certificates and products for about 30 raffle baskets. Tickets, $1 each, will be sold for a chance to win a basket.

Saturday’s event will feature a “huge silent auction,” Kolodka said.

The musicians who will entertain during the event include Maury Finney, saxophone, and Naomi Welsh, Ligia Feo and some of their colleagues and students with a string quartet playing a collection of movie themes and other classical songs.

Vocalists who’ve become well-known through local theater productions will include Veronica Folkedahl, Kyle Mason and Alyssa Donacki. They’re planning to sing some uplifting songs from musicals, Kolodka said. Mila Drago will be playing her harp, and several other musicians will play piano, guitar, brass and other instruments.

“It’s going to be such a fun night of the community coming together for great food and amazing musical performances (all) for the greater good,” Kolodka said.