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CLASS OF ’73

Heart and Sole

 

Mark Maas C’73 had traveled frequently to China on business, but it wasn’t until he and his wife adopted a baby daughter, Jennifer, from that country last February that he went into one of its many orphanages.
   
It was clear that the children there, mainly girls, needed so many things—including footwear. So Maas, who sells shoe leather through his Manhattan firm, Dymark Trading, founded an organization called First Foot Forward. (E-mail him at <FIRSTFOOTFWD@aol.com>.)“I’m taking my years of experience in the shoe industry, supplying lots of factories in China, and getting them to donate shoes. I think the potential is huge.”
   
According to Maas “there are thousands of factories in China making shoes for American, Japanese and Australian shoe names.” Many of them end up being rejected for minor flaws. “Rather than have those shoes come out of China, we’re working to have them stay in China” and go to the orphanages.
   
But because of strict internal-trade regulations, that hasn’t been possible yet and Maas has been trying to work with China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs to change things. He hopes the recent passage of a donations law in China, to facilitate the giving of products inside the country, will help his cause.
   
He is also working with a Fort Worth-based adoption agency, Gladney, which is well connected throughout China’s orphanage network, as well as a charity that has brought products from America to China, the Grace Children’s Foundation.
   
Maas, who with his wife, Diane, has two older sons, Daniel and Alex, says Jennifer’s adoption “has been a fantastic thing.” After seeing first hand only the orphanage in Changsha, where Jennifer came from, Maas says he can’t claim to be knowledgeable about all Chinese orphanages. “But they don’t have the facilities and they don’t have the caregiving” those children need. “The people were very well meaning,” Maas says. “But they’re overwhelmed. Jennifer didn’t smile when we got her. She didn’t know how to smile. Now she’s delightful. She’s happy.”


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Copyright 2001 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 1/2/01

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