Archive for February, 2010

Why We Love Shoe Distributions

February 28, 2010

Setting up for Shepard's Pantry distribution

As Allan and I distribute shoes at cities across the country, at times it becomes a personal goal to find just the right shoe for each person we meet. Often they tell us, “I have diabetes and need an extra wide shoe” or, “My bunions make walking difficult. Do you have a comfortable shoe?” While we don’t have the selection of a “real” shoe store, we do usually have a cross-section of sizes and styles. Sometimes it takes many tries to find just the perfect shoe for someone. When we do, I usually yell, “Another satisfied customer!” as the person leaves with a big smile. At the Shepard’s Pantry, in Glendora California, we fitted over 250 people with new shoes. It was so rewarding to help one man find a shoe that fit his prosthetic leg and also felt comfortable on his other leg. We found a pair of Z-Coil shoes that he said were a God-send with their comfort and perfect fit.


Picture Would be too Gory

February 27, 2010

We’ve all heard about a flock of birds flying into an airplane and causing extensive damage. We can relate. Not that a flock of birds hit us…it only took one bird, flying into the Soles4Souls RV mirror as we cruised down an LA freeway to inflict some damage. We heard a loud “thud” and suddenly had our outside mirror dangling from a few wires. The bird actually cracked the heavy duty plastic surrounding the mirror. After a quick stop at Lowe’s, Allan applied a plastic epoxy, and with the help of Duct tape, our mirror is almost good as new. You’ll understand why we didn’t take a picture of the bird.

Vans Donates 10,000 Pairs of Shoes

February 27, 2010

Do we look like Vans' skateboarders?

Vans employees touring the RV

We were honored to visit the Vans corporate office and meet Steve Van Doren and Jenny Lamott. Vans donated 10,000 pairs of shoes to survivors and volunteers of the Haiti earthquake as part of an industry-wide relief effort mounted by Soles4Souls. Jenny gave us a tour of the building, which conveyed the “edgy” appeal of Vans products. They even have an indoor skateboard half-pipe where their staff, athletes and spokespeople try out their cool skateboarding moves. Jenny gave Allan, Sondra and me Vans T-shirts, so we posed in what we consider cool skateboard moves. (Don’t expect us to be Vans athletes anytime soon!) I shared with the Vans’ staff how a boy in a remote village in El Salvador came up to us as we distributed shoes and asked “Vans? Vans?” Evidently Vans shoes have impacted kids in places where electricity and running water don’t exist.
Later that evening, I met a 12-year-old boy at a shoe distribution. We only had a pair of boots in his size. He politely explained that he had bad feet and needed to wear orthodics. He described how his only pair of shoes, (well-worn Vans!) held his orthodics in place perfectly. After a quick e-mail to Jenny, she assured me a new pair of Vans would be sent to his house. That’s customer service!

Sport Chalet Holds Olympic Sized Shoe Drive

February 26, 2010

David Hacker taking a victory lap

What happens when someone gets an idea, gets approval from the company CEO and then has enthusiastic support from employees? They collect over 1.1 million pairs of shoes as part of Soles4Souls’ Project Haiti! David Hacker, marketing director for Sport Chalet, approached Craig Levra with the idea of collecting gently used shoes at all of their store locations. They expected to gather 30,000 or so pair of shoes. Little did they know how enthusiastic the general public would be in collecting shoes for Sport Chalet. Within a three week period, the shoes kept coming, and coming and yes, coming even more. Store owners told of arriving at their stores where boxes of shoes waited at the front door. We met a manager today who told of having to climb over mounds of donated shoes just to get to his inventory of new shoes.

Allan and I stopped by Sport Chalet corporate headquarters to personally thank everyone for this amazing shoe collection. Since the Olympics are taking place, we honored David with the “Gold Medal In Shoe Drive Organization” and had him take a victory lap holding the Olympic Torch I carried for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Just to give you an idea how many shoes they collected…If you wanted to run one million INCHES, you’d run the length of a football field 227 timess! Now visualize one million pairs of shoes! Thank you Sport Chalet for your hard work in helping the people of Haiti.

Girls Getting A Second Chance

February 25, 2010

My shoes fit this girl!

Happy girls with new shoes

Some shoe distributions are more emotional than others. Through our connection with Hope Through Healing Hands and Save The Children, we met with girls who had been involved with human trafficking or sexual abuse. They lived in a group home that provided safety and comfort for them. Allan, Vicky and I brought new tennis shoes and sandals for these girls. Every girl beamed as we fitted her with shoes. We soon found shoes that fit all girls, except two. Vicky and I kept going to our bag of shoes, but couldn’t find any to fit these two girls. Allan whispered to me, “What size shoes do you wear?” I quickly took off my shoes and they were a perfect fit for the girl I was helping. Vicky saw what I did and removed her shoes. They fit the last girl!!
Even more rewarding was seeing the girls respond to Allan. He kept a low profile, knowing these girls knew only negative experiences with men. Yet after some magic tricks and a few smiles, the girls enthusiastically hugged him as they left. If only for a few minutes, they saw a man that was kind, funny and had no intention of hurting them. As the girls sang us a song, Vicky and I cried, wishing there was some way we could erase the pain these girls have endured.

Every Person Deserves New Shoes

February 25, 2010

We met a young girl with Downs Syndrome who lived next door to our host family.The parents kept her isolated because they were ashamed of her disability. We made sure she got a great pair of cute pink shoes along with a package of M&M’s!

Doesn’t Everyone Travel With 14 Suitcases?

February 24, 2010

Soles4Souls distributes one pair of shoes every 9 seconds. In most cases, large containers of shoes are sent overseas to be given to people in need. In our case, when we were leaving for El Salvador, we wanted to take as many shoes as possible. American Airlines allows each passenger to take 2 suitcases free of charge. Additional suitcases are charged $100.00 each. Being cheap, (I guess frugal is the new politically correct term), I contacted the president of American and asked if we could take extra suitcases of shoes. Ta Da! He agreed, and had a note added to my ticket saying we could take additional luggage at no cost. So, 14 suitcases later, Allan and I, along with Randy and Vicky took 450 pairs of flip flops and 50 pairs of shoes to El Salvador. Thank you American Airlines!!!

Boys Will Be Boys

February 24, 2010

This boy's only pair of shoes

One of our main reasons to go to El Salvador was to distribute shoes to people involved with Save the Children.
One of their staff, Jenny, along with a driver, picked us up and took us around Santa Ana, the second largest city in El Salvador. First stop: a boarding school for boys whose parents were too poor to care for them. The boys receive schooling, food and career training. The boys were very excited to get new flip flops. Ever try to organize 200 enthusiastic boys brimming with energy? They had the truck unloaded in record time and actually lined up in a semi-orderly fashion. Most of the boys had ripped shoes and one boy wore two different shoes because that was his only pair. Motherly instincts took over as Vicky and I helped each boy take off his old shoes and fit him with new flip flops…with a few more hugs and pats on the back.

Cutest First Graders Ever!

February 23, 2010

Talk about the cuteness factor! We went to a school run by nuns and met three classes of gap-toothed, adorable first grade girls. After fitting them all with new flip flops, Allan performed some magic. After his first trick, they spontaneously chanted, “Do one more! Do one more!” He obliged and did several more tricks to enthusiastic applause. I could have taken everyone of those girls home with me. (Although the RV might get a little crowded.)

Hard Working Men Get New Shoes

February 23, 2010

Part of our reason to visit El Salvador was to distribute shoes to various groups. These men worked long hours, helping build the new senior center where we were staying. Their work boots had holes and their sneakers were ripped. They were thrilled to get the new Red Wing steel toed work boots we brought along. Since they get paid $5.00 a day, these shoes were a luxury they could never afford. Every day when they came to work, they proudly showed us there new shoes. Except for one guy who said he didn’t want to get his boots dirty so he was “saving” them.