Collecting Soles for Souls
Posted by Jane Parikh on 11/05/2012
Stephanie Bradshaw has a lot of sole these days.
The 17-year-old Senior Girl Scout who attends Mattawan High School has been collecting used and new pairs of shoes which are being distributed to individuals in need throughout the United States and overseas. Her efforts have garnered the attention of students in the Mattawan schools and area businesses who are contributing shoes and serving as collection sites.
So far more than 3,000 shoes – pairs and singles – have been collected.
The idea for the shoe drive began after Stephanie returned from a mission trip this summer to Nashville, Tenn., where she worked at Soles4Souls main warehouse sorting and boxing donated shoes for domestic and international distribution. The shoe drive is her Justice Journey project and she is trying to raise money now for a trip to Jamaica this summer with Soles4Souls to help distribute shoes.
The non-profit organization was established in 2004 for the sole purpose of collecting shoes for those in desperate need of footwear.
“I thought it was a really worthy cause when I was volunteering at warehouse,” Stephanie said. “I didn’t have a goal, but when I first started I knew I would get over 200 pairs and when I did that I knew I could 500 and I knew I could over 1,000.”
Collection sites locally are at Okun Brothers Shoe store, at 179 Portage Street, and at the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan Program and Training Center, at 601 W. Maple Street. In December Gazelle Sports also will be a collection point.
Boxes also were placed in Mattawan’s Middle School and High School where students and others pitched in.
Stephanie also received shoes from members off Troop #90610 who collected 752 pairs of shoes and 46 single shoes.
Nicol Rogers, troop leader, said her 17 girls wanted to get involved after Stephanie’s sister came to a district meeting to talk about the project. Rogers said with permission from teachers, the girls told their classmates about the shoe drive.
“My daughter’s teacher jumped on it and sent out emails to other people and gave weekly updates,” Rogers said. “The girls felt like it was something they could be a part of that was bigger than themselves. It just really struck a chord with them”
The shoes from the collection sites are transported to Corey’s Bootery in Kalamazoo which is an official drop-off site for Soles4Souls where they are repaired and sent on to the organization’s main warehouse in Nashville.
Brand new shoes are sent to individuals in need throughout the United States. Single shoes are given to amputees. Shoes that need to be repaired are sent to low-income families who are paid to fix them. These shoes are then distributed to people in need around the world.
Stephanie said the Souls4Soles main warehouse receives more than 5,000 pairs and single shoes and boots each week.
“Some of them are donated,” Stephanie said. “They get a lot of shoes from people who run drives and they also have businesses that give them shoes that have been on display or haven’t sold or shoes which don’t have match.”
Her involvement with Soles4Souls isn’t a first for Stephanie whose Silver Award project involved a crayon collection for children living in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. She collected used crayons from area restaurants, melted them down and molded them into different shapes.
“I got in touch with Kids Alive International which medicine and toys that kids would need,” Stephanie said. “All of the leftover cookie money was used to buy more than 100 coloring books to use with the crayons.
“It is because of GS my Silver award that I discovered one person can make a difference and that was the driving force for what I’m doing.”