Seven years ago, I was working at LaSalle Bank in Chicago with a woman named Karen. Karen had a friend named Mona Purdy. Mona had this little charity she’d started, called Share Your Soles, where she collected shoes to send to children and adults in Central America who couldn’t afford shoes of their own.
It started out small. Mona collected shoes from church groups and running groups, and sent a shipment. Then, it became a passion. She was overwhelmed with the amount of people who wanted to help by giving their shoes a second life. She grabbed local kids to help sort shoes in her driveway. She held fundraisers to pay for the costs of shipping. Her organization grew, but her passion never changed: to provide children and adults in impoverished countries a basic necessity to ensure that they could walk, run, and live free from the threat of infection.
It’s not a simple task. Mona’s operation has now reached volunteer groups in 40 states, and impacted thousands of lives. At its core, Share Your Soles operates too, with a dignity that is important. Every pair of shoes is inspected, cleaned, washed, and polished. Shoes with holes are thrown away – and every recipient can wear their shoes with pride.
Share Your Soles runs shoe drives with many organizations, including the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and many others. But running the organization always takes cash to keep the shoes going to where they need to be. It relies on volunteers for processing at its facility in Alsip, IL, and the dedication of thousands of groups around the country to gather and send shoes their way.
A $10 donation packages 50 pairs of shoes. A few hours of donated time helps prepare hundreds of shoes for shipment. In any case, if you’re looking for a good way to make a difference this season, Share Your Soles can give you several options. Consider it one of your options for holiday giving, and think of it as one gift that will last far longer than our holiday season.