Sometimes people wear their shoes down until their toes are popping out and the heel is torn. But many times people get new shoes for other reasons. Whether people need nonslip shoes for work, more stylish sneakers for fun, new work boots for protection or just something in a different size, they often just leave their perfectly usable old ones in the closet. They can turn this clutter into serious good by donating those shoes to others who may be in need.
If you’ve never donated your old shoes before, it’s easy to start. There are a variety of organizations that’ll accept or collect old usable shoes to clean and donate for people in need. Here’s some helpful information about some of the largest shoe donation organizations in the U.S. so you can decide where you’ll be sending your old footwear.
Donate Your Old Shoes
“Donate Your Old Shoes” isn’t just a command, it’s the name of a 501(c)(3) charity that collects and distributes shoes all over the world. The organization started in 2006 when Philip Cleary and his family were visiting Nicaragua. They saw children and adults walking through the dirty, trash-filled streets without any foot protection. The family realized that they, like so many American families, regularly threw away shoes that were still usable, and that these people could’ve benefited from those. They started a charity when they got back and set out to “put shoes on the shoeless worldwide.” The organization holds numerous shoe drives and accepts shoes mailed from all over the world.
Also started in 2006, Soles4Souls is a large Nashville-based, not-for-profit that collects shoes from individuals as well as corporate donations. Soles4Souls operates differently than many other donation groups because it doesn’t necessarily deliver the shoes directly to people in need. Rather, Soles4Souls donates the new, unused corporate shoes to people in need of footwear and the used shoes to people in developing countries. These countries can then sell the used shoes, which Soles4Souls says helps stimulate the economy in the region and supplies people with shoes who wouldn’t otherwise have them.
“Soles4Souls typically sells the used shoes and clothing, as well as some new items allocated by manufacturers, to carefully selected micro-enterprise organizations,” the organization explained on its website. “These both private and non-profit companies are contracted to provide shipping, financing, inventory, training and other support to ultra-small businesses in countries like Haiti where there are virtually no jobs to generate personal income.”
Soles4Souls has has received some criticism for accepting payment from these “micro-enterprise organizations” for handling fees, USA Today reported in 2011, but the group defends its collection as necessary and efforts as altruistic.
Shoeman Water Projects
Shoeman Water Projects is similar to Soles4Souls in that it provides the shoes as a way to boost business in developing countries, but it takes it one step further by incorporating fresh water. Operating in Kenya, Haiti and South America, Shoeman Water Projects takes shoes people no longer want and sends them to these countries, where they’re sold inexpensively to citizens. This gives a roadside vendor a livelihood and residents protection from injury and parasites. The organization’s website explains that, from there, funds generated from the export of shoes lead to drills, purification systems and pump repair businesses that can create and maintain fresh water wells in the area.
One World Running
This Boulder, Colorado-based organization has been around since 1986. It doesn’t just provide donated shoes to people in the U.S. and third-world countries in need of footwear. It also holds 5K runs and walks to promote healthy, active lifestyles. A 501(c)(3) charity, One World Running started with providing barefoot runners in Cameroon with everything from sneakers to T-shirts and medication. To this day, the 100-percent volunteer organization keeps the charity aspect closely tied to its athletic one. It’s an organization for runners in need by runners who care.
The Shoe Bank
The Shoe Bank started in 1989 with the honorable and humble goal of providing Dallas, Texas, residents in need with shoes. As its website now explains, The Shoe Bank gives shoes to 25,000 people each year. Still based in Texas, The Shoe Bank accepts donations that it distributes at home and abroad. It’s worked with Texas-based running organizations for events and donation drives and remains a charitable powerhouse more than 25 years later.
The organization Green Sneakers took a different approach to the situation of footwear. Its founders thought that there were two problems: too many shoes being thrown away in landfills and not enough shoes for people in developing countries. This nonprofit organization, run by the Crown Ministry Group, took the logical step to redirect shoes headed to the landfill to people who are in need. Green Sneakers provides free or low-cost shoes to those in need across the world, and helps micro-businesses as well, like several other associations.
If you’re thinking about throwing out some small or out-of-style shoes, don’t! Donate them. There are plenty of places to bring your old sneakers or mail them where others can put them to great use.
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