Tuesday, June 30, 2009

North Carolina Churches Collect over 5,500 Pairs of Shoes for Those in Need

Twelve Guilford County churches in North Carolina, three churches in Lexington and one each in Archdale, Kernersville and Reidsville joined forces recently to collect more than 5,500 pairs of shoes for victims of natural disasters and those living in extreme poverty.

The campaign, which was led by First Lutheran Church in Greensboro, is part of Soles4Souls efforts to provide shoes for those in need worldwide.

As of June 23 , the churches had collected 5,635 pairs, and a volunteer will buy 120 to 130 pairs of shoes from local thrift stores with $700 in donations. The biggest single contribution was $250 from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Local company Xpedx contributed dozens of boxes, packing tape and transportation of boxes to a terminal in Greensboro where another local company, which prefers to remain anonymous, will transport the shoes to a Soles4Souls warehouse in Nashville.

About 25 percent of the shoes were taken to Greensboro Urban Ministry. Many of the churches recently participated in Barefoot Sunday, where people left their shoes on the altar or at the front of the church to be donated to those in need.

David Bills , pastoral minister at New Garden Friends Meeting , challenged his parishioners to fill up his pickup truck with shoes. They easily met the challenge, he said. The campaign also took numerous volunteers to help count, sort and box all the shoes.

"It's been a great project because it involved so many churches and lots of volunteers who banded and boxed the shoes," Frank Moore, director of community ministries at First Lutheran , said. "I've been thrilled and grateful for the response and look forward to doing it again well, maybe after a break."

Shoes to Uganda

Assist International, in partnership with Soles4Souls, delivered athletic shoes to orphans in Bugembe, Uganda. Soles4Souls provides Assist International with footwear to support them in their orphan and widow projects in remote villages of Africa and Asia.

Tim Reynolds, the Executive Director at Assist International, handed out shoes donated by END footwear to the children of the village.

"The kids were so excited to receive their first pair of tennis shoes," said Reynolds. "Most of them were either barefoot or wearing sandals too large or too small for them. They had never learned how to tie a pair of shoes," he said.

More shoes are being sent to Bugembe in July for the children yet to receive a pair.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sol Collecting Shoes

Sol, a fashionable, modern shoe store in Casper, Wyoming has become a permanent drop-off point for new or gently-worn shoes as a partner in the Soles4Souls program.

Sol became a drop-off location when buyer and manager Shirley Bower heard about the program at a buying show.

"With the times being so hard, that's the time you need to reach out," Bower said. "We're so blessed here, we just felt we needed to give."

From flip-flops to heels, any pair of gently worn shoes will do.

"Any kind of shoe you can give, they can use it. For some people, this is their first pair of shoes," Bower said. "For some, just even having a flip-flop keeps them from getting diseases."

Shoes go all over the country and the world, to anyone who may need them but can't afford to buy a pair. Some of the shoes go to women's shelters. Heels can be helpful for women interviewing to get back into the job market.

"We're going to give some just for those women going back to work," Bower said.

So far, Casperites have come out en force to donate, with Sol collecting about 500 pairs of shoes in the last several weeks.

"We offer $10 off tickets, but most people don't want anything," Bower said. "They just cleaned out their closets."

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Gift at Royal Family Kids Camp

Linda Chenot with Royal Family Kids Camp sent us this email of kids receiving footwear in an unusual and exciting way.

On Wednesday afternoon after 30/30 time we all headed out to the softball field for a group sporting game, and an exciting afternoon of surprises. While we are all playing on the softball field the local fire department showed. At first the kids weren’t sure if there was a fire or something but when they saw Ms. Caelyn, the Bible teacher, on the truck waving, they all ran towards the truck with excitement.

The fire department spent time showing the kids the truck, all the different compartments and talked to them about fire fighting. Then they began giving the campers and counselors rides around the campground on the fire truck. Each camper got to wear a fire hat while they were on the fire truck.

While campers were getting rides on the fire truck, the second truck began to hose down the softball field, which entertained the rest of us. After hosing down the field we realized that they were actually making a giant X on the far end of the field. All the kids were talking about what they were doing and why they were marking the field. Right about that time we saw a helicopter in the sky, circling around and getting lower. It was beautiful…..it first appeared through the dark stormy clouds, and then circled around to the clear blue skies, through the clouds and began its descent to land right in front of us.

As it got closer the kids got more and more excited, jumping up and down and waving and cheering. WOW…..what an experience! Once the local “flight for life” helicopter had landed the campers got to take pictures with the helicopter and “flight for life” team.

If all the pictures with the fire truck, the helicopter and fire truck rides were not exciting enough…….the next one was picture perfect. The fire fighters had all the kids’ line up right in front of the helicopter and fire truck, shoulder to shoulder and the fire fighters and “flight for life” team handed our brand new crocs to each camper that had been donated by Soles4Souls. What an exciting afternoon!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Market Street Shoes

Market Street Athlete in Seattle, WA has been collecting gently worn shoes for Soles4Souls for about a year now.

"We look at it as an opportunity to have a way for the community to give back to people in need," said owner Ryan Stauffer.

Inside his store, the collection box is right next to the register so customers who buy new shoes know they can come back with their old, unwanted shoes. And they do.

"In fact, just this morning, someone came in with two shopping bags full," Stauffer said.

The Market Street Athlete collects 250 pairs of shoes each month.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ZIPZ Shoes to Donate 18,000 Pairs of Shoes to Soles4Souls

Orange County-based ZIPZ Shoes will donate 18,000 pairs of their state-of-the-art, interchangeable shoes valued at $300,000 to Soles4Souls this week.

Jerry Stefani, creator and founder of ZIPZ Shoes says, "The result of changing styles and patterns from our 2008 inventory will give thousands of less fortunate children around the world the first look at some of the newest and hippest shoes on the planet."

ZIPZ Shoes is a unique system where the shoe tops and bottoms -- "covers" and "souls" as ZIPZ calls them -- are interchangeable to create different combinations. The separate pieces are available in a variety of patterns, styles and colors in toddler, youth and adult sizes.

The shoes are currently being sold in numerous worldwide retailers and will appear in multiple United States retail locations this fall to begin their nationwide launch. Currently, a limited number of shoes are available for preorder at http://www.zipzshoes.com/.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Shoes to Liberia

Temple Baptist Ministries is a partner of Soles4Souls in Liberia, Africa. These pictures, sent last week, capture children and men receiving shoes for the first time! Below is the note from the point man on the ground, Guanue Gbendah:

Hi Soles4Souls,
these were my best photos for the week. These kids were very happy to have getting the shoes, these two men in their 80 years and this is their first shoes they ever had!
What a blessing, and words cannot express it.

In His Service:
Pastor Guanue Gbendah your partner

Friday, June 19, 2009

Woman's Life Inspires Massive Shoe Drive

More than a year after her passing, Mary Sumner is still remembered for many reasons.

Her spunk and energy, even into her 80s, inspired those who knew her — especially at Sumner’s home church of Blue Ridge Chapel in Hillsville, VA.

Finding a way to honor Sumner, who served as director of the New River Baptist Women’s Ministry and WMU for several years, was as easy as taking off a shoe.

“Anyone who knew Mary Sumner remembers her vivaciousness and contagious happiness, her love for little dressy high heels, and her love and support for missions. After her death, the women of the New River Baptist Association tried to think of a way to honor her,” said Evelyn Beamer, a member of both the NRBA and Blue Ridge Chapel. “After learning about Soles4Souls and its mission of providing shoes — new or gently used — to people all over the world in need of shoes, it seemed like the perfect fit.”

The effort culminated June 17 with the delivery of 977 pairs of shoes to Virginia Produce, where the shoes were readied to be shipped to Soles4Souls’ world headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.

Beamer said the effort began during the annual meeting of the New River Baptist Association WMU and Women’s Ministry, when the group agreed to sponsor a shoe drive for Soles4Souls during the month of May in honor of Sumner. In total, nine different churches and a beauty salon contributed shoes to the cause.

“We appreciate everybody’s thoughtfulness in getting shoes to us and in getting us new shoes,” said Mary Ann Combs, a member at Blue Ridge Chapel. “Some were new shoes and that was so impressive. It just shows what a good kind of people Carroll County has got.”

Beamer and other organizers were overwhelmed by the amount of shoes the churches were able to collect in a little over a month’s time. She said it was just as amazing to see what transpired during a Sunday morning church service on May 31 at Blue Ridge Chapel. That day, Pastor David Moore caught the congregation offguard when he invited people to leave the shoes they were wearing at the altar and to think about people who didn’t have shoes as they left church barefoot. Moore was the first to leave his shoes at the altar. By the end of the service, 37 other people had left their shoes.

“It was amazing how many people left their Sunday shoes at the altar. And it was a sacrifice because it was their good shoes,” Beamer said. “Most of them have been really good shoes.”

Church members know Sumner would be excited by the mission, especially if she could have seen the room at Blue Ridge Chapel that housed the shoes, a room so full you could barely open the door.

“Mary would be so proud,” said Combs. “One thing she loved so good was her high heel shoes. Every time we paired up a pair of high heels, I thought of her. I think she would be so pleased we did that in her honor.”

PUMA and Soles4Souls Receive Footwear Donation from Aaron Eckhart

Soles4Souls and PUMA are currently working together to collect shoes for people in need around the world. All PUMA stores are offering 30% off to customers who bring in a pair of their own gently worn shoes to donate. Customers will have until July 12th to take advantage of the generous discount.

As part of the kickoff for this fantastic event, PUMA and Soles4Souls set up two oversized donation boxes in New York City for people to come by and toss in their shoes and walk away with a pair of Soles4Souls flip-flops as a thank you.

Several celebrities, including movie star Aaron Eckhart, made a donation of his very own kicks. Aaron is the star of such movies as "Batman: The Dark Knight" and "Thank You For Smoking."

We are very grateful that he took the time out to give us his shoes -- even though the person who receives these New Balance shoes will never know that a famous movie star once owned them, we know they will be thrilled to have a good pair of athletic shoes....

Thursday, June 18, 2009

NCS Middle Collects for Soles4Souls

Before Nashville Christian School students left for summer break, the middle school finished up the school year with a service project for Soles4Souls.

Sixth-grade teacher Kathryn Gilbert organized the shoe drive, which collected 850 pairs of shoes to be sent to the Soles4Souls inventory.

"This was a great project because the students got to donate something they didn't necessarily need, but knew that others would need and benefit from," Gilbert said. "They were also amazed when they saw the pile of all the shoes we had collected."

The shoe drive was set up as a contest for the middle school grades with the fifth grade taking the prize, which included a week of wearing flip-flops to school.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Eneslow Survey Suggests More than 25% of the Shoes Americans Own Are Too Uncomfortable to Wear

When it comes to shoes, men and women alike have been known to suffer for the sake of fashion. But what happens when the pain is just too much? A new national survey by Eneslow, The Foot Comfort Center, finds that millions of Americans, driven by discomfort, relegate shoes they can 't wear anymore to the back of their closets or throw them out altogether.

According to the survey, the average American owns 11 pairs of shoes, and almost three in ten (28%) have this much footwear or more lying around.

But unfortunately, more than six in 10 (61%) admit there 's at least one pair of shoes in their closets that they don 't really wear anymore. On average, three pairs – or more than a quarter of what they own – are going unworn. And a wasteful 11 percent admit to 10 or more unemployed shoes collecting dust in their homes!

"With consumers across the country looking for ways to stretch their dollars, it pains me that most Americans not only waste money by buying uncomfortable shoes, but underestimate the damage they can do to their feet," said Robert S. Schwartz, a Board Certified Pedorthist (C. Ped.) and fourth-generation footwear maven who is president and CEO of Eneslow Pedorthic Enterprises, Inc. "If you have a pair of shoes you love, but don 't love you, don 't wear them."

Schwartz thinks people should donate their usable shoes to Soles4Souls, instead of living through the pain. All Eneslow locations are drop-off sites.

"At Eneslow 's three locations in New York City and Little Neck, we have 15 pedorthists who watch our customers walk, ” says Schwartz. “They check their feet, determine when, where, and why they get pain. All of these answers help us find which products and materials will help them."

Folks at the Brimfield Senior Center Supporting Soles4Souls

Members of the Brimfield Senior Center in Brimfield, MA are stepping up their fund-raising efforts while helping people in need throughout the world.

Pairing during the month of June with Soles4Souls, the seniors are collecting monetary donations from family, friends, teachers and neighbors for the purchase of new Soles4Souls clogs or flip-flops. They are also collecting shoes.

Funds generated by the project will be used for senior center parties and programs like speakers, health clinics and performances.

Like many other schools and organizations, the Brimfield Senior Center often utilizes fund-raising programs to generate revenue for its operations and goals. The Soles4Souls program provides an innovative alternative to traditional fund-raisers, so seniors are able to raise money while making a difference in the lives of others.

New and gently used comfortable shoes also can be donated to Soles4Souls by bringing them to the Senior Center at the Brimfield Congregational Church, 20 Main St.

Monetary donations can be sent to the senior center at P.O. Box 172, Brimfield, MA 01010. Make checks payable to Soles4Souls.

"We have been looking for a good cause, something to get involved in that will help a lot of people in need," said Heather M. Dickinson, activities coordinator for the senior center. "We do our own parties, lunches and other activities. We are a close group, like family."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Teen Launches New Shoes Program

Courtney Parker traveled to 14 Baldwin County elementary campuses in Alabama during the 2008-09 school term to distribute new shoes to kindergartners through her newly created "Running Start" program.

The project's goal is to distribute new footwear to low-income kindergarten students.

"I had this wonderful feeling inside, like what we were doing was really going to make a difference in people's lives. That was when it hit me that our concept, 'Running Start Shoes,' had actually become a reality. It was a great day," she said.

Parker decided to call her concept "Running Start Shoes," and with the help of her mother, local psychiatrist Dr. Sandra Parker, she pitched the idea to Paul Wilson, the World Outreach Division president for the Soles4Souls.

Wilson, an Alabama native who divides his time between Alabama and Tennessee, loved the idea and immediately volunteered to help.

"Courtney's initiative was a model for what our organization does," Wilson said. "She identified a local need, and we were glad to come along and work beside her. That's what we do here, we give shoes to those around the corner and around the world."

In May, with the help of Soles4Souls, community sponsors and the Baldwin County school system, Parker's project finally came to fruition when she delivered nearly 100 shoes to kindergartners at the Baldwin County elementary schools.

Parker's plans don't stop with Baldwin County, however. She plans to expand the program, and has already contacted state education officials and her local legislators, many of whom are eager to help, she said.

"It's programs like Courtney's that begin at the community levels that truly make a difference," said Rep. Jamie Ison, R-Mobile. "I'd love to see 'Running Start Shoes' become a statewide campaign, and I've already made a pitch on her behalf at the State Department of Education to help distribute information about her initiative to local entities."

And, while Parker would also like to see the program expand, for right now, she said she's just happy knowing that she's helped scores of Baldwin County's youngest learners feel a little more confident during their first days of school.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Get Your Tickets Now for "Jeff Fisher & Friends" Charity Event

The 2009 “Jeff Fisher & Friends” Charity Softball Game is set for Saturday, June 20, 2009 at 7 PM at Greer Stadium. $15.00-Reserved. $10.00-General Admission. $6.00-Kids’ ticket, 12 and under.

General admission tickets are available through the Nashville Sounds ticket office, by calling at 615-242-4371, or online at www.nashvillesounds.com. All proceeds will go to benefit Soles4Souls.

The Tennesse Titans head coach Jeff Fisher will be calling on famous pals for the ninth annual Charity Softball Game. Although the list of this year's players is top secret, past pals have included a myriad of Titans like Kerry Collins, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Vince Young, Cortland Finnegan, Steve McNair, Eddie George, Frank Wycheck, Rob Bironas, Keith Bulluck and many more.

Gates will open at 5:00 p.m. 6:00 p.m. is the “Hit it Out of the Park” contest between the NFL Players. Bridgestone and Best One will again host a dazzling fireworks display to cap off the evening.

Friday, June 12, 2009

PUMA Partners with Soles4Souls

Sportslifestyle brand PUMA has once again teamed up with Soles4Souls to encourage people across America to turn in their gently worn shoes and donate them.

From June 15th to July 12th, PUMA will be collecting slightly worn shoes at every one of their stores across the country. In return, PUMA will give the generous donors 30% off a new pair of kicks in hopes of rallying people to give back to those in need! During this time period, consumers will also be able to make a monetary donation to the cause at all PUMA store locations.

In addition to collecting shoes in-store, PUMA and Soles4Souls are encouraging people to take action and literally give the shoes off of their feet. At two exclusive locations this summer, a larger-than-life PUMA Red drop box will be on-hand ready for footwear donations.

On June 15th in New York City's Union Square, and on June 23rd on the Santa Monica Pier, donors can turn in their shoes on the spot by tossing them in a giant 10 foot tall donation box. Soles4Souls flip flops and a coupon for 30% off a new pair at the PUMA store will be given to participants. The oversized drop boxes will only be on-hand for one day in each city from 11 am to 7 pm.

This is the second initiative that PUMA and Soles4Souls have worked together. Earlier this year, the sportlifestyle brand collaborated with the non-profit organization on a special program at the Sundance Film Festival where Soles4Souls auctioned a giant PUMA Clyde sneaker which PUMA had signed by attending celebrities and special guests.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Barefoot Friday: Shoes, Socks and...Pizza?

Over 3,000 pairs of free shoes and socks were handed out to people in downtown Portland last Friday. They also received free food, something no other city has done during Barefoot Week.

Delivered Dish, a Portland restaurant delivery service, provided free pizzas and doughnuts to hungry people as they finished their wait in line.

"This was an important way for us to provide a different kind of service to the people of Portland,” said Greg Trombley, Partner at Delivered Dish. "We love to get involved with events like this that benefit local people."

Volunteers from Delivered Dish also helped with the set up and clean up of Barefoot Friday in the North Blocks.

"It was a blessing to have Delivered Dish on hand to feed all these people," stated Chris Carmichael, the Director of Communications at Soles4Souls. "People were so thankful to receive a decent pair of shoes and a hot meal all in the same afternoon."

Shoe Mill Goes the Extra Mile in Giveaway

When it comes to customer service, not many shoe stores do it better than Shoe Mill out of Portland, OR. They take pride in finding the right fit and style for each individual that walks through their door.

Last Friday, on the final day of Barefoot Week, volunteers from Shoe Mill jumped at the chance to extend their customer care to the needy living on the streets of the north blocks in downtown Portland.

Warehouse personnel, managers, shoe runners, office workers and even the President of Shoe Mill took the time to remove old shoes and socks and personally size each man and woman that stood in line for shoes.

"We wanted to serve each individual in the same way we do in our stores," said Ed Habre, President of Shoe Mill. "It's not just about handing someone a free pair of shoes. It's about looking them in the eye, asking their name and treating them with respect by giving them a new pair of shoes that they can wear and enjoy."

It was not an easy task. Over 3,000 pairs of shoes were handed out in a five hour period. Volunteers from Shoe Mill were joined with volunteers from adidas, Bridgetown Ministries and Delivered Dish in the unloading, set up and massive clean-up that followed the event. Josh Habre, Operations Manager for the shoe retailer, thinks it was worth it.

"Giving back to our community with Soles4Souls is an important part of being a successful business,” said Josh. “We are so blessed and feel that it is only right that we make a way to help those in need. We have partnered with Soles4Souls for a long time in order to reach people in need around the world. We saw the opportunity to help right here in our hometown and are excited to give away new shoes and socks to Portlanders in need,” he said.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cool People Care & Soles4Souls begin Barefoot Revolution

Between June 1 and July 20, Cool People Care and Soles4Souls are teaming up to distribute 50,000 pairs of shoes to people all over the world. CoolPeopleCare.org, the online destination for anyone who wants to make a difference and Soles4Souls launched an exclusive online fundraising campaign called "Barefoot Revolution".

"We're thrilled to be a part of this campaign, because it truly highlights how a very small step can have a very big impact," said Sam Davidson, Co-founder and President of CoolPeopleCare. "We're challenging all of our readers to make a donation so that more and more people around the world can have their basic needs met. And when we all do our small part, we'll truly have a revolution on our hands."

Click here to provide shoes to people who need them. As little as $5 provides two pairs of shoes. And if you can’t dish out a little more, you’ll get a special thank you from Cool People Care – like a limited edition T-shirt you can’t get anywhere else.

A donation of $50 will buy fifteen (20) pairs of shoes for families in need, and you will receive a custom designed T-Shirt promoting the campaign and a CPC sticker. Or you can know that you are the "coolest" and donate $100, which will help buy thirty (40) pairs of new shoes for families in need and you will receive the CPC book, a custom designed T-Shirt celebrating the campaign, and a CPC sticker.

No one knows when life will hit hard. It could be a financial or natural disaster and it can strike at any second to anyone. One day you have everything you need; the next you may only have your life. A pair of shoes can help people begin the rebuilding process. Shoes not only bring hope, but in millions of cases they can save lives.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Bag Lady Announces Shoe Drive

The Bag Lady announced that they will be hosting a shoe drive to benefit Soles4Souls.

During the shoe drive, The Bag Lady will be offering a discount coupon to all customers who bring in gently worn pairs of shoes toward the effort. The shoe drive began on June 1 and will end on July 31, 2009. The Bag Lady is located at 1710 Kenilworth Ave. in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte, NC.

“Soles4Souls is such a worthy cause,” said Susan Burns, Store Manager of The Bag Lady. “It’s a meaningful and easy way to get the local community involved in a global effort. Plus, it’s a great incentive to clean out our closets!” she said.

For more information on how you can get involved with this shoe drive and take advantage of the discount toward a new pair of shoes, contact The Bag Lady at (704) 338-9778. You can also visit their web site at http://www.thebagladync.com/.

Article in the SATA on Giving Back

This article was written by Bill Boettge as seen in the online issue of Shoe & Accessory Travelers Association. Bill Boettge is former executive director of both SATA and the National Shoe Retailers Association, and currently is executive director of the Pedorthic Foundation. He tells an amazing story of partnering with Soles4Souls to make a difference. As you will read here, you don't need a large city to host a successful shoe drive. You don't even need a store. You just need to be willing.

Giving Back Gives Unexpected Joy
Bill Boettge

While there are many worthwhile charities and non-profit groups, the footwear industry can be particularly proud of having created two of them: Two Ten Foundation, which helps people in the industry and their families, and Soles4Souls, which assists people in need worldwide.

We all have the opportunity to serve and help each of these groups. Along with thousands of people in footwear, I have worked with and supported Two Ten for the past 40 years. This past spring I had two opportunities to work with Soles4Souls. In both, the ultimate goal was distribution of footwear – and both experiences were incredibly rich ones.

In late April I was invited, along with nearly 50 vendors and retailers, to help in fitting homeless people in the St. Petersburg, Florida area with free footwear, courtesy of Soles4Souls. We spent nearly half a day at a tent city which provides shelter and services to 250 families. During the first hour, we unloaded a truck and started setting up the footwear inventory – some 1,500 pairs of shoes in a variety of sizes, ranging from work boots to casual wear to athletic shoes, for both men and women. More than 95% were new shoes, donated by manufacturers and retailers all over the United States. Then we began the real work – four local charities had invited their clients to come for free shoes. We sized them, asked what type of shoes they needed, found the shoes in our inventory, and fit more than 400 people
individually. (The remaining shoes were divided among the local charities, so they could give them to other clients who weren’t able to come to our event.)

What we hadn’t expected was what we learned in meeting and talking with these “customers.” It didn’t take long to realize that the only difference between many of today's homeless and those of us who were volunteers was that they were receiving the shoes and we were giving them out.

A large segment of today's homeless have college educations, had owned homes and had been earning very decent salaries. Now, in many cases, due to circumstances beyond their control, they find themselves living in tent cities like the one in Florida. A pair of shoes is something most of us take for granted. In fact, when we put our shoes on in the morning, most of us worry about whether the shoes go with the clothing we’re planning to wear. In Florida, we were reminded of how many things a pair of shoes really represents. Shoes let you walk without worrying, whether you’re on pavement or grass; they give you physical support so you don’t feel as tired; they offer you a better chance to find a job.

All of us who participated in the event were not only humbled and thankful for what we have, but also proud to be part of an industry that gives back by helping our fellow men and women.

Less than a year ago, after a career in the industry, I moved to a small town (15,000 population) back in the Midwest, where I grew up. Like most Americans, I believe you should do your part in serving our fellow man, and since the footwear industry gets into your blood, I wanted to continue serving through the footwear industry. Why not collect gently used footwear from the citizens in my new town?

Soles4Souls has partnered with hundreds of retailers in collecting shoes. I didn't have a local shoe store to work with -- but I did have a service organization that was also interested in helping people in need.

While we hear about all the bad happenings in the world, my faith in the good of people was again renewed beyond my expectations.

Twenty-four local businesses and ten schools signed on. Not only did they gladly accept having a footwear collection box in their building, but the businesses provided me with paper bags to hand out at community events and churches, to remind people to donate their gently worn footwear. And when the collection boxes started to overflow, they stored the extra shoes until I made my biweekly pickup. The newspaper ran articles telling the story of Soles4Souls. The radio station gave us interviews and public service announcements. In a little over three weeks, we collected almost 5,000 pairs of shoes from a population of 15,000. Then a local company donated a truck and driver so I could get the shoes to Milwaukee and onto another truck to take to a Soles4Souls collection center.

Have you ever had a woman walk up to you and thank you for doing something that would let her family’s unneeded shoes help someone in the world not as fortunate as they are? Have you ever met a 10-year-old girl with a birthday party coming up who said the only gift she wanted was for her guests to bring a pair of shoes to donate to Soles4Souls? I did – and it was a blessing to serve as the connector between people who need help and people who want to share their own good fortune. My 10-year-old friend, by the way, collected over 38 pairs – and totally amazed her parents.

I wanted to share with you these stories as a reminder that it’s a pretty great industry we are a part of --and if you are offered an opportunity to participate in or help organize either a Two Ten or Soles4Souls function, please do it. You’ll get back far more than what you give. And I invite you to then share your experience with your fellow reps by sending it to info@shoetravelers.org. It sounds almost trite, but in tough economic times, getting a lift for your spirits is priceless.

Monday, June 08, 2009

A Day of no footwear shows plight of shoeless people

Here is an article written by Carla Hinton of the NewsOK, the daily newspaper serving Oklahoma City. Carla was brave enough to go barefoot for a day during Barefoot Week. Here is her story:

There are some folks who can’t wait to go barefoot.

They come home from a hard day at work, slip off their shoes and let their feet enjoy some freedom.

Others like walking along the beach, the sand crunching underneath their toes, warm sunshine leaving their feet with a pleasant tingling.

I am not one of those people.

So when the charity Soles4Souls issued a challenge to the media to go barefoot, I immediately jumped at the chance to do something different.

I knew it would be a challenge for me in more ways than one because I just don’t like walking around in my bare feet. I have probably spent a mint on socks over the years. My kids, whose feet are larger than mine, hide their socks from me.

No one’s socks are sacred.

By going barefoot Tuesday, I joined several celebrities and others who participated in Soles4Souls’ second annual Barefoot Week.

Soles4Souls is a nonproft organization trying to put pairs of shoes on the feet of the shoeless across the country and the world.

Wayne Esley, the organization’s CEO and founder, said he wanted Barefoot Week to be about experience, more than awareness.

"Everybody can get plugged in. I want you to be able to experience it,” he said during a telephone interview.

The highlights of my barefoot day were riding in the elevator with people who were trying their best not to get caught staring at my feet.

I smiled and started to give an explanation, but the elevator ride just went too quickly and folks seemed in a hurry.

Maybe I was paranoid, but it’s not every day that you see anyone walking around barefoot in our office building.

It rained that day, so I got to experience walking on wet pavement and grass. That was just plain nasty.

An hour later, the rain had stopped (ahh, that Oklahoma weather) and I remembered how hot concrete can be when the sun is beaming on it.

I had to watch for broken glass and other objects as I walked in parking lots. There are a lot of unusually shaped — and hard — rocks out there. I know because I walked on lots of them.

Picking my daughter up from a local gym, I heard a little boy whisper to his mother, "She doesn’t have on any shoes,” as they passed me on the sidewalk.

I felt the heat of shame wash over me. Then I remembered that I had plenty of shoes to wear at home. I thought about all the people whose lack of a decent pair of shoes is not by choice.

Esley said he hopes that going barefoot will encourage some people to be more empathetic to those who are shoeless because they don’t have the resources to get any. He wants people to clean out their closets and donate their "gently worn” shoes or even buy a new pair to donate to Soles4Souls.

The shoe donations can be taken to Finish Line athletic retail stores for a $5 coupon for a new pair of shoes for the donor.

As part of the special week, Soles4Souls worked to distribute 50,000 pairs of new shoes to local nonprofits such as homeless shelters, missions and children’s service organizations in Indianapolis; Atlanta; Birmingham, AL; and Portland, OR. A midnight giveaway is one of two planned events today in Los Angeles.

Esley said Soles4Souls estimates that there are 1.5 billion shoes that no one wears sitting in America’s closets.

"I bet Carla has a pair of shoes like that in her closet,” Esley said.

Yes, indeed.

Barefoot Sunday Results in 700 Pair at Connecticut Church

There were flip-flops and clogs, high heels and sandals.

There were black Converse sneakers, red slip on Jollys and brown leathery work boots.

There were shoes in boxes and shoes in bags. There were shoes on benches. People even gave the shoes off their feet.

The shoes lined the left side of the altar at Mary Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church in Milford, CT. They filled a giant sneaker created by Ryan Lapadula, a 9-year-old third-grader, as the church celebrated its first Barefoot Sunday.

"I suggested that anyone who wanted to experience what it's like not to have shoes, go barefoot during the service," said Leigh Bak, who coordinated the event with Stacy Meszros and Rachel Merva, all of Milford. "We have a very giving and generous congregation, so I'm not surprised."

Sometime this week the shoes will be shipped to Roanoke, Ala., where they will be sorted by type, size and style.

Bak said her church became aware of the need for shoes when several members went on a mission in Vietnam last year.

"We sent hockey bags full of flip-flops with them which they handed out to young girls who make their living picking through garbage piles. Most of the girls are barefoot and run the risk of not only cutting themselves but picking up parasitic infections in their feet."

Mary Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church was one of nearly 200 churches that participated in the second annual Barefoot Sunday.

"We are definitely going to do this again next year," said the Rev. Virginia Hoch, senior pastor.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Barefoot Wednesday: Birmingham, AL

Barefoot Week continued yesterday as Soles4Souls partnered with The Foundry in Birmingham, AL to give away more than 2,000 pairs of shoes and flip-flops.

The Foundry began passing out the shoes, which were donated by shoe companies, at 10 a.m. Word of mouth and last-minute publicity on Tuesday and early Wednesday resulted in huge crowds when the distribution efforts began.

Micah Andrews, volunteer community outreach coordinator for the Foundry, said about 600 shoes were given out in the first hour of the event. About 2,200 pairs were given away during the entire four-hour event.

"The numbers have greatly exceeded what we anticipated," said Andrews.

Andrews said the shoes were available to anyone who needed help.

Even with an hour remaining, more and more people were seen walking into the Foundry for the giveaway and walking out with smiles on their faces.

The Foundry had 4,000 adult name brand shoes and 6,000 flip-flops delivered. Andrews said what shoes remain will be given away to the homeless in the Birmingham area in upcoming Friday events.

"It will really be an opportunity for us to reach out to a lot of homeless and needy families of Birmingham that couldn't be here today," Andrews said. "If you have a need, we want to meet it."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Free Shoes of Hope in Atlanta

City of Refuge in Atlanta, in partnership with Soles4Souls, is giving out over 10,000 pairs of new shoes for their friends in the community. In the coming months, City of Refuge will mobilize volunteers to distribute all of the shoes into the neighborhoods in the surrounding areas.

Yesterday, at 10:00 AM people started to line up, waiting for a free pair of shoes. Workers and volunteers handed out hundreds of new shoes to those in need.

"Yes, it's just a pair of shoes, but behind that is a little bit of hope," said Steve Grimes of City of Refuge.

Seven years ago, when Grimes started working for the non-profit group City of Refuge, a homeless man asked him for a pair of shoes.

"He looked terrible," Grimes remembers. "And he said, 'Can you help me with a pair of shoes?' And I took my shoes off and gave them to him."

Now, he helps sort through 10,000 pair. The boxes are piled around him, waiting for delivery.

"The people who come here, we'll give them a new pair of shoes and ask them to donate their old shoes which will be recycled."

Soles4Souls made the delivery to the epicenter of poverty where City of refuge is located. The neighborhood along Joseph E. Boone has the city's highest violent crime rate, twice the national average of new HIV cases, and the highest number of parolees in any zip code in Georgia.

Executive Director, Bruce Deel, says the space was donated. The brick buildings are filled with volunteers and service centers, including a kitchen that trains young people to cook.

"It happens to be in one of the toughest neighborhoods not just in our city, but statistically, in the state of Georgia. We think that's providential that we're located right in the heart of a lot of need," Deel says.

The City of Refuge has seen a steady increase in those looking for help in the last year. They help families in times of crisis with food, clothing, shelter, and job training. As the unemployment rate rises in Georgia, more people are asking for help.

Together, the small group of volunteers wipes away sweat as they sort through the boxes that hold more than shoes.

"These shoes give somebody a little bit of hope," Grimes says. "It's all those little things we do that have a cumulative effect on people's lives."

Scarlett Johansson Proves she is "Soleless"

Scarlett Johansson is barefoot and proud as she helps promote Soles4Souls' Second Annual Barefoot Week.

During Barefoot Week, Soles4Souls will be collecting gently worn shoes and distributing thousands of pairs of new shoes right here in the old USA.

Johnasson has already donated 2000 pairs of shows from her Reebok line and is encouraging everyone to get involved.

If you can’t dig deep in your pockets, than dig in your closet!“ said Johansson. “Americans can make a huge difference with Soles4Souls by donating shoes. Souls4Soles gives away a pair of shoes every 13 seconds in over 125 countries, with over 55 percent donated to fellow Americans.”

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Shoe Giveaway in Indianapolis Benefits Hundreds

The line started forming two hours before a shoe giveaway began Monday at Wheeler Mission and eventually wrapped around the block.

For their wait, the hundreds of people received a free pair of dress or tennis shoes and a pair of flip-flops.

The giveaway kicked off the second annual National Barefoot Week from Soles4souls. Finish Line is working with Soles4Souls and service organizations in five cities this week to give away a total of 50,000 pairs of shoes. Free shoes also will be doled out in Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Los Angeles; and Portland, Ore.

Steve Kerr, chief development officer at Wheeler, said the mission was on target to give away 1,200 pairs of shoes Monday. The remaining shoes, about 9,000 pairs, will be donated to local service agencies.

Despite the long wait, a homeless Andrew King, Indianapolis, was looking forward to replacing his old shoes.

"My shoes are falling apart," King said. "I think it's really nice that they're doing this. Old shoes smell, and it makes you self-conscious when you're looking for a job."

Monday, June 01, 2009

Happy Barefoot Week!

As many of you know, today is the beginning our 2nd annual Barefoot Week!

All week long - churches, businesses, schools and the general public will host hundreds of concurrent shoe drives, fun runs & walkathons, retail trade-in events, concerts, festivals and more. Whether you volunteer your time, donate shoes/funds or receive a pair of shoes yourself, Barefoot Week will sure to be making a positive impact in thousands of lives.

Various celebrities are lending their support to Barefoot Week in hopes of encouraging more participation. Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Simpson, Randy Jackson, Zach Braff, Kellie Pickler, Tim Gunn, Antawn Jamison, Nick Lachey, Lance Bass, Riddick Bowe, Luke Perry, Amy Grant, and Chris Hope (among many other celebrities) are all supporting Soles4Souls this week.

We hope to see you at one of the many events around the country! For more information or to find an event near you, click here.