Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Step up! Clean your closets and make a difference

Step up and help your neighbor: Your older, unloved shoes could find a new home with someone who needs help most.

I've always struggled with what to do with well-worn shoes or those my children outgrow in a matter of weeks, it seems. If they're in good shape, there's the option of donating them or selling to a resale shop, but those with scuffs or scrapes just don't make the cut for willing buyers and all too often end up in the trash.

While you can participate in shoe recycling programs such as the one through Nike, which turns old tennis shoes into new track, I'd like to argue that helping our neighbors, near and far, is more important than ever. Whether it's helping our local communities facing double-digit unemployment (and fewer resources for the basics) or giving a step-up to those in the most impoverished countries, a donation of your child's outgrown tennies or your outdated styles could make a difference for those in need. And all it costs you is the time of cleaning out your closet and dropping them off to a collection site or at the post office.

Here's just a sampling of the organizations that regularly accept donations of used but still usable shoes. Details on these groups came from their Web sites; please confirm drop-off locations with the organization before shipping or dropping off shoes.

Heart and Sole
A project run through the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Heart and Sole provides new and gently used shoes to the poorest of the world’s people. More than 7,000 pairs of shoes have been shipped around the world.

One World Running
Since 1986, a group of runners in Boulder, Colorado, has collected, washed and sent to Third World countries new and "near-new" athletic shoes, T-shirts and shorts, along with medicine and school and art supplies. Drop-off locations include locations in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, and Ottawa.

Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and the closets of people like you. The charity distributes these shoes free of charge to people in need, regardless of race, religion, class, or any other criteria. Since 2005, Soles4Souls has given away over 5.5 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes (currently donating one pair every 9 seconds.) The shoes have been distributed to people in over 125 countries, including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States. I became aware of this as they are partnering with many stores in Indiana for drop-off sites, as they are working, like many groups, to assist those in Haiti. Find drop-off locations and a mailing address (if no drop-off spots are nearby).

The Shoe Bank had just one goal when it was founded in 1989 – to put comfortable shoes on a few hundred homeless men living on the streets in downtown Dallas. The program today provides shoes for 20,000 people every year – primarily children, both here and abroad.
Find drop-off locations in Texas here.

Whether you're wanting to help others on a limited budget or simply want to start on your spring cleaning, take those few extra minutes to make sure your castoffs go to a good cause. It's more important than ever!

No comments: