OGDEN, Utah, March 29, 2021 - Miss North Ogden, Gracie Nichols, loves doing community service and so does Bank of Utah. So when Nichols needed a partner to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes as part of her participation in the 2021 Miss Utah Scholarship Competition, the local bank was a “shoe-in.”
Every year the Miss Utah organization invites contestants to voluntarily help collect 1,000 pairs of shoes each, making a potential total of 45,000 pairs of shoes that could be contributed to Soles for Souls, a nonprofit that provides shoes, food, homes and more for people in third world countries.
The 18-year-old Weber High School student was eager to help in the shoe drive and began looking for community partners and putting together donation boxes in early February. Her grandmother, Kay Ballif of South Ogden, suggested that Nichols contact her good friend Cari Fullerton, EVP, Chief Credit Officer at Bank of Utah. With that one phone call, Bank of Utah went into motion putting out a box in each of the three Ogden branches for customers and bank employees to deposit shoes. Nichols was given an opportunity to speak to more than 300 bank employees during a bank Zoom meeting Feb. 9 about her shoe collection for Soles for Souls.
“Bank of Utah was really amazing,” says Nichols. “They stepped in and helped spread the message to collect as many shoes as possible over a few weeks. And they ended up being my number one source for shoes.”
North Ogden Elementary and fellow students at Weber High School also joined in the effort along with Lee’s Market, Just Girl’s Stuff, Lucky Slice, Opal and Ovie Hair Salon, and others. Nichols finished counting and collecting shoes and took them to the Miss Utah drop-off location the week of March 20. In total, Nichols was able to collect 1,720 pairs of shoes to be donated to Soles for Souls.
Nichols said it has been somewhat challenging doing service projects during the pandemic because events and organizations have been canceled. Nonetheless, she participated last year in Project Rainbow and a blanket drive, and she collected packets for homeless people in Ogden.
The Miss Utah competition is affiliated with the Miss America scholarship competition and requires that participants have a social impact initiative. Nichols will focus on embracing differences for her initiative that she will present during the Miss Utah competition in June. She will advocate loving one’s self first and then being open-minded and loving to those people who are different than yourself. The multi-talented high school senior has written and recorded a song dedicated to suicide prevention, which she will dance to for the talent competition.
Nichols, the daughter of Mike and Jan Nichols of North Ogden, plans to major in journalism or political science in college. After that she hopes to have a career as a TV news broadcaster and eventually serve as a CEO of a nonprofit. She is a debate student and enjoys keeping up to date on political issues. Her goal is to be able to respectfully share what she believes in with others.
“We have all been very impressed with Gracie and her dedication to community service,” said Douglas L. DeFries, president of Bank of Utah. “During Women’s History Month in March, we recognize the many women in our bank, in the community and the world who are doing or have done positive things to make the world a better place. Gracie is well on her way to becoming a future leader and having a positive impact on society. We wish her luck in the upcoming scholarship competition and her career path.”