Monday, November 06, 2006

WSA Gives $38 Million For Footwear and Exhibition Charities


ENCINO, Calif. (Oct. 26, 2006) — Following WSA’s record-level donation of funds to footwear and exhibition industry organizations, industry leaders are starting to make plans for how to use the gift in the best way. “It’s wonderful,” said Tim O’Donovan, president and CEO of Wolverine Worldwide, and member of the executive committee of the Two Ten Footwear Foundation, which will receive $5 million. “The board of directors is incredibly appreciative. We’ve had a long history with the WSA, and this most recent is the biggest gift in the history of Two Ten.”

On Oct. 23, the board of directors of the World Shoe Association, a nonprofit organization that produces the WSA Show, the world’s largest footwear and accessories trade shows, and publishes WSA Today and, announced that it has designated approximately $38 million for domestic and international humanitarian efforts. The aggregate grants are the largest to be made in the history of the industry. The proposed grants are conditional upon completion of legal and other arrangements.

Other recipients include Soles4Souls, Nashville, Tenn., $20.3 million; World Shoe Travelers Association, Columbia, Md., $5 million; National Shoe Retailers Association, Columbia, Md., $4 million; WSA Trust for distribution to fashion and footwear design institution programs, $2.35 million; Center for Exhibition Industry Research, Dallas, $1 million, and Operation Bootstrap, Tubac, Ariz., $350,000. “Our organization is very flattered that WSA wants to continue to support the independent retail community,” said Chuck Schuyler, president of the NSRA. For all the organizations, the WSA donation is significant. For example, the Two Ten Foundation currently disburses $2 million a year. “This will allow us to impact more lives, more families, and that is at the heart of this major gift,” said Peggy Meill, the group’s president. The Two Ten board will meet in December to determine how to allocate the grant between the categories of endowment and annual giving. “We have immense gratitude, and we need to give a serious response,” she said. Steven Nichols, president and CEO of K-Swiss and chairman of Two Ten’s scholarship committee, is eager to increase the amount the group can grant. “We have to make decisions every year based on a finite amount of money,” he pointed out. Currently, Two Ten helps 600 students each year. “There’s only so much we can give till it’s all used up. When we get more, we will change the lives of more children of the people in the industry.” Added O’Donovan, “Long term, the scholarships create opportunity.” Two Ten also makes financial relief donations to footwear-industry workers who need them.

Soles4Souls, which started two years ago by providing more than 1 million pairs of shoes to needy people, including victims of the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, will receive the largest grant. “We are very excited by the tremendous opportunity that the WSA grant gives us,” said Wayne Elsey, founder of Soles4Souls and president of Kodiak-Terra USA. "This is a terrific opportunity for us to expand our mission, which is simple: to impact as many lives as possible with the gift of shoes.”

Soles4Souls has agreed to hold a semiannual fundraising gala on the opening night of each WSA Show to further the organization’s outreach efforts. “This high-visibility vehicle will provide Soles4Souls the potential to draw media and public attention that can create international interest, similar to what Live Aid and other organizations are doing," said Mitch Fisherman, president of WSA’s board of directors. "At the same time, our current participants at the shows will have access to world-class entertainment that benefits a good cause."

According to Soles4Souls, more than 1 billion people currently earn less than a dollar a day, which they must first spend on basics like food and shelter. “Shoes, although very necessary, are still a luxury in many parts of the world,” Elsey said. “With this incredible grant from WSA, Soles4Souls will be able to respond to current requests from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and right here for underprivileged people in the United States.”

Elsey said the WSA grant also allows Soles4Souls to continue its strong domestic programs that began in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “Through our ‘Shoe Trade-In’ program, retailers can also benefit by encouraging customers to donate gently worn shoes in exchange for a purchase incentive,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation for the retailer, the customer and the community.”

Gina Berman, president of the board of WSTA, said her group has no comment. It will work on strategies to respond to the bequest within the next two weeks.

The funding for the six organizations was made possible as a result of WSA’s decision to sell its assets to WSA Global Holdings, LLC, a new, privately held company under CEO Skip Farber who, along with COO Diane Stone, has directed WSA’s efforts for the past three years. In its history, WSA, founded in 1947, has operated as both a for-profit and nonprofit organization. WSA’s distributions of assets are consistent with the requirements of tax-exempt entities. Once these distributions have been completed in the near future, the nonprofit organization will dissolve. “The WSA board of directors has demonstrated great vision, leadership and courage to effect the kinds of dramatic changes that the organization has needed," Farber added.

WSA Global Holdings, LLC will produce the twice-yearly WSA Show trade shows, which each attract more than 36,000 participants from 95 countries including 1,600 exhibitors showcasing more than 6,000 brands. The Collections at WSA, the premier luxury footwear show-within-a-show, features more than 350 luxury footwear and accessories designers in an upscale setting. In addition to publishing WSA Today and, the company intends to launch, a directory and resource Web site for retailers and manufacturers, in the first quarter of 2007. Plans also call for launching Global Footwear Sourcing at WSA in August 2008, a separate trade show to be co-located in Las Vegas with the WSA Shows. This show will target designers and sourcing executives seeking new technologies, factories and components for footwear design and creation. The company will pursue new ventures in online and print publishing and data to support footwear manufacturers and retailers. WSA Global Holdings, LLC, like its predecessor, will be based in Encino in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The company currently operates several divisions including show operations, publishing and retail relations.

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