I love Ottawa! I used to think Vancouver British Columbia was my all time favorite Canadian city, but Quebec is going to give Vancouver some competition. Everywhere we look there’s another museum, sculpture or cathedral. The massive parliament building sits on a hill like a mighty fortress, overlooking the Ottawa River. We just took a sunset walk up a hill that gave us a clear view of the Ottawa as well as Quebec across the river. Our RV is parked in Majors Hill Park, surrounded by antique merry-go-rounds and a trapeze structure where kids will learn circus skills. This morning we moved thousands of Sketchers shoes into a warehouse, where they’ll stay until we put them into two giant wooden shoes for display. Tomorrow will be more set-up and Friday is the opening of the Canadian Tulip Festival. I love my job!
Archive for April, 2009
As we were driving from Nashville towards Ottawa we noticed our route took us through Cleveland, home of my good friend, Susan Fee. Always looking for a free space to park the RV overnight, we were happy at Susan’s invitation to visit. It was fun hearing Susan and her ten-year-old daughter Gabby tell about their recent visit to Costa Rica. Congratulations Gabby, on getting the courage to do the zip line over the jungle canyons! An added plus of staying at the Fees was getting to wash the RV. Regular car washes aren’t tall enough for us to drive through, and commercial truck washes are too powerful with our “wrap” on the RV. So having a hose was a luxury. We gave the RV a nice bath so it looks pretty at the Canada Tulip Festival this week. If you ever need a driveway to park your RV, give the Fees a call. They offer great food, hot showers, interesting conversation and RV washing facilities!
While thousands of runners were racing in 90 degree heat for the Nashville Marathon, the RV was standing still at Opry Mills Mall. We worked with some great teen volunteers from Hands on Nashville collecting gently used shoes. Freed Hardemon University College Democrats dropped off over 1,200 pairs of shoes! A special thanks to Arianne Krulish, Justin Spurlock, Seth Yarney and Anthony Wade for making the delivery. Then the Hands on Nashville volunteers sorted the shoes, made sure they were rubber banded together and loaded them into the Soles4Souls box truck. We also got donations of expensive running shoes from the marathon runners. Yes, some of the runners actually took off heir sweaty shoes and gave them to Soles4Souls as they crossed the finish line.
We were privileged to meet with the Soles4Souls warehouse staff in Roanoke Alabama. They are the hard working, shoe-shlepping, shoe sorting and rubber banding team that help Soles4Souls collect and distribute shoes. How would you feel if a truck pulled up to your garage with 10,000 pairs of used shoes? That’s an everyday occurrence for Michael, Jerry and the rest of the warehouse team. It was fascinating to watch them sort shoes into various categories, package them up and get them ready to ship to people in need. And for anyone conducting a shoe drive, please rubber band your shoes together so the Soles4Souls staff don’t have to try and find mates for all the shoes! We had a great lunch with traditional Southern food. Within 20 minutes of eating, the staff was already back at work! It was obvious these behind-the-scenes employees are what makes Soles4Souls so effective as a shoe charity.
We often hear about the lack of customer service today. You won’t find that at the two Foot Solutions stores owned by Joe and Loretta Fernandez. We visited their Palm Harbor and Largo stores, and were immediately impressed with Joe’s management and customer service skills. He had our parking space reserved (we can’t just pull into one parking spot!) and had done lots of publicity ahead of time. Most of all, he and his staff demonstrated personal customer service as they spent time with their customers. And they had a steady stream of customers! As usual, Joe and Loretta were impressed with the slideouts on the RV. It’s such fun watching people casually leaning on the couch or table and then having the entire wall move out when we push the “extend” button.
I’ve come up with two profound thoughts. (Profound for me at least!)
Profound thought #1:
This may not be politically correct, but I wonder if the recession is as bad as the media says. Yesterday Allan and I went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Spring break is over, summer isn’t yet here and still there were mobs of people. I gasped at the $75.00 admission, but evidently it didn’t matter to the thousands of smiling people coming to the park. Being the cheap people we are, we had a packed lunch with us. Not so with the majority of people. Every restaurant, snack bar and gift shop had lines of customers wanting to purchase something. Recession? Hard to believe.
Profound thought #2:
An amusement park is more fun when you have a young child with you. While Allan tried to humor me by being excited when I pointed out an attraction, it wasn’t the same as being with a real kid. I miss having our daughters with us when we travel. There’s something special about seeing the attractions and rides through the eyes of an over-enthusiastic child!
After giving a speech for the Sunshine Club at the Ventura Country Club in Orlando, the women decided to conduct a shoe collection. Within 45 minutes of leaving the clubhouse, we got our first donation of shoes from Aggie. She waved us down, (the blue Soles4Souls RV is hard to miss!) and gave us a bag of gently used shoes. Another 15 minutes and a car began honking at us, gesturing us to pull over. Sure enough, it was another donation of shoes, bound together with rubber bands. Wayne has quite a following here with all the ladies. They are more than happy to support him by donating shoes to Soles4Souls. By the way, if you see Wayne, ask him to say something with a French accent. He told us a story and imitated a woman with a French accent. What he thinks is an elegant, sophisticated French accent sounds more like Sylvestor Stallone talking like a pirate.
Soles4Souls is fortunate to have many shoe companies donate new shoes. Grendha is a company that has been particularly generous in giving shoes to Soles4Souls. Grendha markets and distributes a cluster of avant-garde molded-plastic shoes in vivid colors. We enjoyed meeting Edsel Oliveira, administrator manager at their corporate headquarters. Edsel showed us the warehouse and then we showed him the Soles4Souls RV. He was so impressed he’s considering renting an RV for his family and seeing what RV camping is all about!
What better way to start the day than with a group of energetic and fun women! That’s what I got to do when I gave a speech at the Sunshine Club at Ventura Country Club in Orlando. These women meet weekly to enjoy socializing and listening to speakers. They were very enthusiastic about helping Soles4Souls. In fact, before the meeting ended, they made a donation, and then set out collection boxes so women could donate their gently used shoes. Oh yes…they served chocolate covered potato chips at their breakfast buffet!
Back to work! After a fun week just hanging out, we’re back in the swing of letting people know about the shoe charity, Soles4Souls. After a dark, windy and rainy drive to Windy Hill, Georgia, we stopped at the corporate headquarters of Foot Solutions. They are the world’s largest and #1 ranked health and wellness franchise, focusing on foot care and proper fit. Their customers had already generously donated hundreds of gently-used shoes. It was fun seeing Hania and Katie again, while also having coffee with Ray Margianao, the CEO and founder of Foot Solutions™. Ray is quite the visionary and told us of his plans to have Foot Solution franchises in over 34 countries.
That afternoon, we were scheduled for a short drive to the very first Foot Solutions store in Buckhead, Georgia, but ran into major detours. High winds had stormed through the city, causing trees to fall on roads and cause power outages. Many roads were closed off, but thanks to our trusty GPS, Bridgette, we found the Foot Solutions store owned by Aadu and Kristi Allpere. Again, Allan and I are amazed at how patient and understanding the staff are as customers come to the store, describing every bunion and foot pain imaginable. That certainly would not be the job for me! We then plowed through rush hour traffic to get out of the city. Tonight we’re staying in the “Party Lot” at the Walmart parking lot. There are six trucks, two ambulances and four other RV’s spending the night with us. Tomorrow we’re off to Orlando!