; Paxville native, Soles4Souls employee calls for shoe donations during October

Paxville native, Soles4Souls employee calls for shoe donations during October

by | September 22, 2014 7:41 pm

Tiffany Johnson poses with a child who received shoes through Soles4Souls.

Tiffany Johnson poses with a child who received shoes through Soles4Souls.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tiffany Johnson is a Paxville native who now works for Soles4Souls. She sent this piece to The Manning Times to ask for donations from her home county for the month of October. She is also coordinating with friends in Sumter as well. More information will be posted Tuesday.

Shoes. We all have them, and for most of us, we have more than we need. I never thought of

shoes as being a critical need for others til seven years ago.

That’s when I was introduced to the newly formed nonprofit Soles4Souls. I performed at a

benefit concert for them and began to volunteer locally. Fast forward to today: I have been

employed with the organization for six years and currently serve as their outreach and

travel coordinator.

I quickly understood the need for shoes while working with Soles4Souls. I saw it while

fitting a man in a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City with shoes; his swollen feet were

tender to the touch. This was likely due to improper fit and because he was on them all day

long. They were his primary mode of transportation.

soles4souls-Keansburg-MDRT-2014-(5)He had also experienced frostbite on his toes, which could be attributed to the thinness of

his shoes’ material after so much wear and tear. I remember fitting him with a new pair of

beautiful athletic shoes, and he beamed from ear to ear. His toothless smile was one of the

most beautiful sights I have encountered.

I have also watched children in Haiti scream with delight over a new pair of shoes! Their

little feet have widened already on the soles from walking barefoot, with cuts and scrapes

covering their teeny toes. Their bare feet are not only a health hazard that welcomes

infection and disease, but the rule in Haiti is simple: NO SHOES-NO SCHOOL.

Shoes in Haiti mean to many children a whole new realm of possibilities, like reading,

writing and arithmetic.

As we evolve as a charity, we concentrate on wearing out poverty through the distribution

of shoes.

soles4souls-Cornerstone-KenyaThis is a lofty goal, as there are currently 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty, and

400 million of them are children. But we are trying to work ourselves out of a job one day,

and hoping that we can chip away at that number and see more men, women and children

reach their potential as human beings and not suffer without basic necessities that most

of us take for granted. We focus on our mission of wearing out poverty in two ways – free

distribution of shoes and microenterprise.

Free distribution is basically what it sounds like: We receive new shoes from footwear

companies and distribute them. We have partnered with almost 1,000 organizations

worldwide since 2006 to provide shoes to people through their networks. We work in

127 countries, providing items for disaster relief, mission programs and community

outreach. We also have a travel program for volunteers through Soles4Souls. We lead

group “voluntourism” trips to five countries, with more than 200 folks traveling with us

annually to give shoes and love away.

Microenterprise is where we provide shoes to create small business opportunities in

developing countries. Currently, we have provided shoes to more than 25 countries where

microenterprise is alive and well.

We ask people just like you to host shoe drives and collect used shoes. These shoes, as

well as some new products, are used to help men and women start a shoe business, which

provides them with a job and income to care for their families.

In Haiti, where one of our growing microenterprise initiatives are, we are able to stimulate

a local economy where 78 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day and 54

percent lives on less than $1.25 per day.

Many of the beneficiaries of microenterprise are women, who have little hope of finding

a job at all. We watch them often grow their “shoe business,” becoming wholesalers and

excellent negotiators. We see the sense of pride they have when they can SUSTAIN their

families and themselves. They can feed their children each day, send them all to school

(often they can only choose one because they cannot afford for all of them to go) and

sometimes, even build or buy a small home, which is the ultimate luxury.

And all of this is possible if we look in our closets. Our shoes tell a story about us.

We all know the phrase “you can tell a lot about a man by looking at his shoes.”

But what if we looked at the shoes in our closets and asked what their next chapter or

“second life” could be. Maybe that pair of black wingtips will be worn by a young man in

Honduras to attend school, purchased by his family in the local village, providing the seller

with enough lempira to buy rice.

The pair of brown boots could be sold in Moldova, keeping a young woman’s feet warm in

the bitter cold while providing money to the seller to buy milk for her young child. A child’s

outgrown sneakers could be worn by a young girl in Haiti as she jumps over puddles on the

way to school, keeping her feet protected from stagnant water, her mother grateful to have

access to shoes at a reasonable price from her local market, where the woman selling them

can buy charcoal and chicken for the week.

In a nutshell, that’s what your shoes can help us do.

We initiated a “Hometown Challenge” at Soles4Souls, where all of the employees were

challenged to get our hometowns to collect. At first I didn’t think it could be done, but I

thought of my family and friends down there, especially my go-getter friend, Crystal Kirlis

in Sumter.

I realized that if her tenacious energy and enthusiasm could get behind this, then maybe it

could be done! So, for the entire month of October, we are asking Sumter, Manning, Paxville

and surrounding areas for one thing: YOUR SHOES!

We will have several local drop-off locations from Oct. 1-31, and our goal is a lofty one. We

want to collect 30,000 pair of shoes, and I truly believe it can be done. I am a small-town

Paxville girl and a graduate of Manning High School’s Class of 1994; I know the power of

this community when it bands together for a purpose!

And trust me, this is noble purpose.

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