Local shoe drive set for worldwide distribution

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By Carol A. Clark

To benefit those lacking footwear, a drive to collect new and gently worn shoes of all sizes is underway throughout the community.

First Baptist Church at 2200 Diamond Drive is sponsoring the drive for Soles4Souls, Inc., a nonprofit organization that distributes shoes around the world.

“Footwear is a basic need that most of us take for granted every day,” Drive Coordinator Fay Moss said. “While most of the world does not have one adequate pair of shoes, we Americans have an abundance of footwear in our closets. As Soles4Souls states, you can change the world one pair at a time.”

For those without shoes, healthcare benefits are the most urgent reason footwear is so desperately needed, she said. A quality pair of shoes protects the wearer’s feet from scrapes, cuts and contaminants that lead to potentially serious healthcare issues.

“In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia, former footwear executive Wayne Elsey felt compelled to do something,” Moss said. “Like many of us, he did not know what to do.”

Elsey was watching TV at home one evening when he saw a picture of a single shoe washing up on the beach, she said. That triggered calls to other executives in the footwear industry, which resulted in the subsequent donation of a quarter of a million shoes to victims in those devastated countries.

A year later when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Elsey called the same group of colleagues and they sent more than one million pairs of shoes to the communities affected by the hurricane.

Elsey did not expect such an immediate and successful turnout, she said, and the response left him wondering about starting a non-profit through which he could continue collecting and donating shoes. Elsey founded Soles4Souls one year later.

Elsey recently left his executive position at a large footwear company to join the charity he founded. “I’m happy to be able to help people with such a simple mission,” Elsey said in an e-mail. “The growth of this organization has been rapid and I am excited to get involved on a daily basis so that I can devote more time to a cause that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Soles4Souls and its many distribution partners are working “around the corner and around the world” to make a difference with the gift of shoes, according to its website.

The organization presently works in more than 45 states and 70 countries.

Shoe donations come from individual community members as well as footwear manufacturers, retailers, civic groups, churches and schools.

Soles4Souls today, according to its website gives away a pair of shoes every 19 seconds to an individual in need.

“It is easy for anyone to participate in this effort by simply donating a pair of shoes,” Moss said.

It is estimated that Americans have 1.5 billion pairs of unused shoes lying in their closets, according to the website and each and every pair can be used to make a tangible difference in someone’s life.

“The shoe charity has earned glowing endorsements from Hollywood stars and professional athletes, but the people who truly make the non-profit organization effective are those who clean out their closets and personally drop off their ‘gently worn’ shoes,” she said.

Shoes can be donated through a number of area collection points including First Baptist Church and other local churches, CB Fox, Metzger’s on Central Avenue, Mesa Public Library, Ruby K’s, Village Arts and Curves.

The collection drive runs through Sunday.

To learn more about Soles4Souls access www.giveshoes.org.

Additional information regarding the local drive is available from the First Baptist Church office at 662-3712 or by email to carol@fbclosalamos.org.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her newsblog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.