The Gift of Shoes

So, how many pair of shoes do you have? Stop what you are doing, go to your closet, and count them. I know this sounds like a random question, but hang with me. It’s important.

a shelf full of shoes

When I went through this exercise yesterday, I counted fourteen pair, including two pair of golf shoes. Worse, I had just said to Gail before church, “I need to buy another pair of casual shoes to wear with my jeans.” (Before you judge me too harshly, count the shoes in your own closet.)So why is this important? Did you know that half the people in the world do not own a single pair of shoes. This includes 300 million children. They are forced to walk around barefoot, often in unsafe—even life-threatening—situations. Many of these are children.

Can you imagine what it must be like to go barefoot, not by choice, but because you don’t have any other option? When I was in Ethiopia a few weeks ago, I saw this first hand. People walking barefoot for miles just to get water. It was heart-breaking.

The truth is, I don’t need another pair of shoes. I may want another pair of shoes, but I don’t need them. They aren’t a necessity for me; they are a fashion accessory.

But for millions of people, shoes are an unaffordable luxury.

In 2004, Wayne Elsey, a shoe company executive decided to do something about the problem. In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that hit Southeast Asia, Wayne was home one night watching the reports on TV. Like many of us, he wondered what he could do to help.

Then he saw a picture of a single shoe washing up on the beach. That triggered a few calls to some other executives in the footwear industry and the subsequent donation of a quarter of a million shoes to victims in the devastated countries.

A year later when Katrina hit, Wayne called the same group of friends, and they sent over a million pairs of shoes down to the gulf coast communities affected by the hurricane. He admits now that he did not expect such an immediate and generous response. This left him wondering, why not start a non-profit and do this all the time? One year later, he founded Soles4Souls. It’s simple mission? “To impact as many lives as possible with the gift of shoes.”

Since that time, Soles4Souls™ has distributed more than five million pairs (currently donating one pair every 13 seconds) to people in over 125 countries, including Honduras, Uganda, Romania, and the United States. The charity has been featured recently in Runner’s World and National Geographic, as well as CNN, NBC, ABC, FOX, and CBS. Best of all, they operate on just 2% overhead. This means 98 cents out of every dollar they raise is actually given to those in need.

This week, the charity kicks off it’s second annual Barefoot Media Week. It is challenging members of the media to go barefoot for at least four consecutive hours in public this week and report on their experience.

Various celebrities are lending their support to Barefoot Week in hopes of encouraging more participation with Soles4Souls. Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Simpson, Amy Grant, Jeff Fischer and many, many other celebrities are lending their support. About 55% of the shoes donated during this week will be distributed to needy people here in America.

What can you do? Here are three possibilities.

  1. Make a financial contribution. For just $5.00, you can give two pair of shoes to someone in need. All you need to do is click here to get started. It takes less than two minutes.
  2. Donate your unused shoes. You can take your shoes to a Finish Line Store in your city or town. (There are more than 3,000 locations.) You will receive a $5.00 coupon toward a purchase. Believe it or not, there are 1.5 billion pairs of unused shoes sitting in American closets.
  3. Host a shoe drive. This is a fun and painless way to help a lot of people without a lot of effort. You can find a step-by-step plan by clicking here

Please help Soles4Souls “change the world one pair at a time.”

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MaurilioAmorim MaurilioAmorim

    Mike,
    I've know Wayne Elsey for several years and I'm proud to be associated with Soles4Souls (The A Group is their online partner). Wayne's business acumen and passion for people have helped S4S become one of the best run charities in the world. I wish more non-profits would learn from Wayne and his team. Thank you for your highlight.

    Maurilio

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      The site looks great, Maurilio. Thanks for creating such a compelling site for such an important ministry.

    • http://www.wayneelsey.com/ Wayne Elsey

      Thanks Maurilio for the kind words. The A Group is a terrific strategic partner for us. Appreciate you guys! You aren' such a bad guy yourself!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MaurilioAmorim MaurilioAmorim

    Mike,
    I've know Wayne Elsey for several years and I'm proud to be associated with Soles4Souls (The A Group is their online partner). Wayne's business acumen and passion for people have helped S4S become one of the best run charities in the world. I wish more non-profits would learn from Wayne and his team. Thank you for your highlight.

    Maurilio

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      The site looks great, Maurilio. Thanks for creating such a compelling site for such an important ministry.

    • http://www.wayneelsey.com/ Wayne Elsey

      Thanks Maurilio for the kind words. The A Group is a terrific strategic partner for us. Appreciate you guys! You aren' such a bad guy yourself!

  • http://www.timothyfish.net/ Timothy Fish

    Five pair. Only three that have any good wear in them left and one of those three is well over ten years old.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      You're doing better than I. I have got to whittle mine down. I discovered that I can only wear one pair at a time!

  • http://www.timothyfish.net/ Timothy Fish

    Five pair. Only three that have any good wear in them left and one of those three is well over ten years old.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      You're doing better than I. I have got to whittle mine down. I discovered that I can only wear one pair at a time!

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  • http://lynnrush.wordpress.com/ Lynn Rush

    Four pair of running shoes, then two pair of flip flops, and five more pare of dress shoes (of the black variety).

    Hmmmm….gets me thinking about something my church did.

    One night (I go to Saturday night services), our pastor asked us to take off our shoes. Yeah, out of the blue. He's been known to do some pretty fun stuff, so we went along.

    He went on to share some of the stats you mentioned above. He then asked us to bring our shoes up front.

    Yep!

    To donate to homeless shelters, etc around the valley (I live in AZ). Funny thing is…I'd worn my best brown leather shoes. Even funnier, I hadn't worn them in months for that very reason, too dressy for shorts, etc.

    It was such a privilege to give them up. So, nearly three thousand people walked out of the santuary (okay, we call it auditorium…we have 12,000 members) barefoot…..It was amazing to see!

    I think he ended up getting nearly 8 or 9 thousand pairs of shoes that weekend. I can't remember the stats.

    Time to clean out my closet again. Thanks for this, Michael.

  • http://lynnrush.wordpress.com/ Lynn Rush

    Four pair of running shoes, then two pair of flip flops, and five more pare of dress shoes (of the black variety).

    Hmmmm….gets me thinking about something my church did.

    One night (I go to Saturday night services), our pastor asked us to take off our shoes. Yeah, out of the blue. He's been known to do some pretty fun stuff, so we went along.

    He went on to share some of the stats you mentioned above. He then asked us to bring our shoes up front.

    Yep!

    To donate to homeless shelters, etc around the valley (I live in AZ). Funny thing is…I'd worn my best brown leather shoes. Even funnier, I hadn't worn them in months for that very reason, too dressy for shorts, etc.

    It was such a privilege to give them up. So, nearly three thousand people walked out of the santuary (okay, we call it auditorium…we have 12,000 members) barefoot…..It was amazing to see!

    I think he ended up getting nearly 8 or 9 thousand pairs of shoes that weekend. I can't remember the stats.

    Time to clean out my closet again. Thanks for this, Michael.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    Awesome post Mike.

    I hope that many people go donate to soles4souls.

    I have 5 pairs. I would say 'but 2 are old and falling apart and only get used for gardening' but that is exactly the point. I have enough wealth to but new shoes when my 'old' shoes have a little hole in them. As you say, half the people in the world would be glad to have my shoes with a hole in them.

    I get so lost in western culture. Thanks for kicking me with one of your 14 pairs to remind me how opulent my life is.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    Awesome post Mike.

    I hope that many people go donate to soles4souls.

    I have 5 pairs. I would say 'but 2 are old and falling apart and only get used for gardening' but that is exactly the point. I have enough wealth to but new shoes when my 'old' shoes have a little hole in them. As you say, half the people in the world would be glad to have my shoes with a hole in them.

    I get so lost in western culture. Thanks for kicking me with one of your 14 pairs to remind me how opulent my life is.

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  • http://gailbhyatt.wordpress.com/ Gail Hyatt

    Twenty pair. I probably wear ten of them.

  • http://gailbhyatt.wordpress.com/ Gail Hyatt

    Twenty pair. I probably wear ten of them.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    According to my husband, way too many. However, my high school is huge–I'm on my feet all day (on concrete floors) and going up and down stairs constantly. I need good shoes, but sometimes they're hard to find. I'll try to remember to take the ones I end up not wearing to Finish Line the next time I go to Columbus.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    According to my husband, way too many. However, my high school is huge–I'm on my feet all day (on concrete floors) and going up and down stairs constantly. I need good shoes, but sometimes they're hard to find. I'll try to remember to take the ones I end up not wearing to Finish Line the next time I go to Columbus.

  • http://justinmcroberts.com/blog/ Justin McRoberts

    after a small purge, i've still got seven pair. I wrote a bit on this process in my life after hearing a story from a Young Life staffer in Liberia: http://justinmcroberts.com/blog/?p=256

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for the link to this story.

  • http://justinmcroberts.com/blog/ Justin McRoberts

    after a small purge, i've still got seven pair. I wrote a bit on this process in my life after hearing a story from a Young Life staffer in Liberia: http://justinmcroberts.com/blog/?p=256

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for the link to this story.

  • http://www.bjharris.com/ Harris, III

    My wife Katie and I just shipped off 15 pair about two weeks ago, proudly addressed to Souls4Souls! Keep spreading the word!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Good for you!

    • http://www.wayneelsey.com/ Wayne Elsey

      Thanks for making a difference with us. We appeciate it so do they.

  • http://www.bjharris.com Harris, III

    My wife Katie and I just shipped off 15 pair about two weeks ago, proudly addressed to Souls4Souls! Keep spreading the word!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Good for you!

    • http://www.wayneelsey.com/ Wayne Elsey

      Thanks for making a difference with us. We appeciate it so do they.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/rodlie rodlie

    i think i have 9. thanks for letting me know about finish line. i now know where to send some of them.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/rodlie rodlie

    i think i have 9. thanks for letting me know about finish line. i now know where to send some of them.

  • http://www.kimmirich.wordpress.com/ Kimmi

    I have few. By choice. But, this is a wonderful idea to spread to scout troops, schools and such to raise awareness and get them involved. We have a similiar here: donations of coats. Great post.

  • http://www.kimmirich.wordpress.com/ Kimmi

    I have few. By choice. But, this is a wonderful idea to spread to scout troops, schools and such to raise awareness and get them involved. We have a similiar here: donations of coats. Great post.

  • http://www.godmessedmeup.blogspot.com/ Pam Hogeweide

    what a great organization. i'm a cleaning woman and one day i could not resist counting the pairs of shoes one of my wealthier clients had in HIS closet. 37. I'm not kidding. Totally crazy!

    Anyone remember Imelda Marcos and her 3000 pairs?

    I read a biography last year of a supermodel Waris Dirie who is from Somalia. Her book, Desert Dawn, traced her journey back to Somalia to visit with her nomadic family. In in she recounted how she brought back gifts for her family, including toothbrushes and other healthcare items. But she wished she had brought shoes instead when she observed the family sharing one pair of flip flops.

    The simple power of pair of shoes. What a wonderful way to express the kindness of God to others.

  • http://www.godmessedmeup.blogspot.com Pam Hogeweide

    what a great organization. i'm a cleaning woman and one day i could not resist counting the pairs of shoes one of my wealthier clients had in HIS closet. 37. I'm not kidding. Totally crazy!

    Anyone remember Imelda Marcos and her 3000 pairs?

    I read a biography last year of a supermodel Waris Dirie who is from Somalia. Her book, Desert Dawn, traced her journey back to Somalia to visit with her nomadic family. In in she recounted how she brought back gifts for her family, including toothbrushes and other healthcare items. But she wished she had brought shoes instead when she observed the family sharing one pair of flip flops.

    The simple power of pair of shoes. What a wonderful way to express the kindness of God to others.

  • http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/ Susan Cushman

    I love the story about the Orthodox saint, John Maximovitch, a Bishop who often served Liturgy barefoot, because he had given his shoes away to someone in need on his way to church! My husband and I routinely give shoes to local organizations that make them readily availalble, like the Neighborhood Christian Center here in Memphis. It's good to give clothes, too, but there's something even more urgent, I think, about having shoes. Maybe it's because once they wear out, the physical damage to a person's body can be pretty bad. Anyway, great post, Michael!

  • http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/ Susan Cushman

    I love the story about the Orthodox saint, John Maximovitch, a Bishop who often served Liturgy barefoot, because he had given his shoes away to someone in need on his way to church! My husband and I routinely give shoes to local organizations that make them readily availalble, like the Neighborhood Christian Center here in Memphis. It's good to give clothes, too, but there's something even more urgent, I think, about having shoes. Maybe it's because once they wear out, the physical damage to a person's body can be pretty bad. Anyway, great post, Michael!

  • heidi

    Society adds so many pressures for attire. Wear something for this, wear something for that. It will be great when the trend is "less is best" all around…!!

  • heidi

    Society adds so many pressures for attire. Wear something for this, wear something for that. It will be great when the trend is "less is best" all around…!!

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  • http://katdish.blogspot.com/ katdish

    What a fantastic charity. I have 2 kids that always grow out of their shoes before they are worn out. I usually give them to a local Christian resale shop, but I think I might just change that policy. Thanks for the heads up.

    I'm not a shoe fanatic. Well, not really – but I do have a obscene amount of flip flops! If I could find those Japanese socks in my size, I might just wear them all year round!

  • http://katdish.blogspot.com katdish

    What a fantastic charity. I have 2 kids that always grow out of their shoes before they are worn out. I usually give them to a local Christian resale shop, but I think I might just change that policy. Thanks for the heads up.

    I'm not a shoe fanatic. Well, not really – but I do have a obscene amount of flip flops! If I could find those Japanese socks in my size, I might just wear them all year round!

  • http://www.chattykelly.blogspot.com/ Kelly Combs

    I'm scared to count mine, but no doubt a lot of shoes…flats, wedges, sandals, pumps, platforms…oh my! And that's just in black!

    I wanted to mention Tom's shoes. For every pair you buy, they give a pair away to a needy person around the world. It's kind of like having your cake & eating it too.

    http://www.tomsshoes.com/

  • http://www.chattykelly.blogspot.com Kelly Combs

    I'm scared to count mine, but no doubt a lot of shoes…flats, wedges, sandals, pumps, platforms…oh my! And that's just in black!

    I wanted to mention Tom's shoes. For every pair you buy, they give a pair away to a needy person around the world. It's kind of like having your cake & eating it too.

    http://www.tomsshoes.com/

  • http://www.toms.com/ Elizabeth

    Have you heard about TOMS Shoes? His company's mission is to donate one pair of shoes to children in need for each pair bought. So the next time you do decide you need/want a new pair of shoes consider these! http://www.toms.com/
    They have donated over 400,000 shoes since just May 2006!

  • http://www.toms.com/ Elizabeth

    Have you heard about TOMS Shoes? His company's mission is to donate one pair of shoes to children in need for each pair bought. So the next time you do decide you need/want a new pair of shoes consider these! http://www.toms.com/
    They have donated over 400,000 shoes since just May 2006!

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