Share Your Soles

A casual observation that led to an idea that resulted in a cause that has now evolved into a movement best characterizes the Share Your Soles Foundation. Mona Purdy, the founder of Share Your Soles, was out running in Guatemala and saw children putting tar on the bottoms of their feet to protect them from the gravel on the roads. She felt compelled to do something about it and founded Share Your Soles as a means of collecting discarded shoes to send to those who could not afford them.

People who heard the story were more than willing to donate—and donate they did. The notion of donating discarded shoes has now spread from the Chicago area to the East Coast. Her house and driveway became so cluttered with shoes that the police told her she needed to find a different location. A large warehouse was donated to her, and to date she has shipped more than 400,000 pairs of shoes throughout the world.

To us, these 400,000 pairs may be out of fashion, but to those Mona has touched, they mean education—because children who attend schools in Africa must wear shoes. To us, these 400,000 may be slightly worn, but to those in Central America they can be the difference between life and death, protecting their feet from infection and eventual gangrene. To us, these 400,000 may have outgrown our children’s feet, but to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina they are a sign that the world cares.

Share Your Soles touches more than the people to whom it donates. Thousands of volunteers clean and sort the shoes and prepare them for shipment. High school students doing service hours for graduation work with seniors to pack the shipping crates. Kids from the inner city sit with kids from the Chicago suburbs in laundromats and share stories while the sneakers tumble in the washers. Kids in trouble with the law are assigned probation hours in the warehouse and finish their time with a greater sense of purpose. And speakers from the Indian Reservations in Arizona or war-torn Zimbabwe share their personal stories with the volunteers who come to hear them speak. Thus, these 400,000 pairs of soles not only affect the lives of those who receive them, but expand the souls of those who ship them.

The movement that is now Share Your Soles needs your help. Although Yellow Freight Lines brings in shipments from the East Coast free of charge and Fed Ex provides Share Your Soles two air freight shipments a month, the volume of shoes that pass through the doors of Share Your Soles is now overwhelming. It costs $25,000 to prepare a freight shipment to send to Africa. The van that used to pick up shoes from the 300 drop boxes throughout the Chicago area needs to be replaced. A bank of computers is needed to expand the philanthropic aspect of the foundation so that it can become self-sustaining. Your generous tax-deductible donation will touch the lives of many here and abroad and ensure that the movement that is today Share Your Soles will be here tomorrow.

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