Archive for February, 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!!
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.
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.)
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.