Five years and over 400 thousand pairs of shoes later the Soles4Souls Canada charity continues to flourish.
Jim Belshaw, Chair of Soles4Souls Canada, says this is a vital service that is geared at helping the over 300 million kids in this world that go shoeless every day.
“As of today we have collected and distributed 400,000 pairs of shoes,” cheered Belshaw. “That is approximately over 200 tons from the landfill.”
His team and their partners want to make it clear that the lack of shoes for those less fortunate is not just a distant issue; it is a problem that also exists here in British Columbia and they want more of their work to go on the feet of people right here at home.
“Up to now it has been 5-8 per cent that we have given back to the community first before sending abroad but this year our goal is to give back to the community up to 40 or 50 per cent of everything we take in here in BC,” said Belshaw.
He hopes to get rid of the mentality that this kind of thing doesn’t exist in BC, something reiterated by Soles4Souls two new partners Shelter Net BC and Food Banks BC.
“Often we don't think about how important shoes are to those that are less fortunate. Many of the people that we serve or getting back on their feet, and a lifestyle that will be productive and access to good quality shoes and boots makes their journey so much easier,” said Shelter Net BC representative John Jansen.
“Shoes are something that some people take for granted. We know that for many a good pair of work boots is the difference between being in the lineup for the food bank or being gainfully employed,” added Food bank BC Lenetta Parry.
Several local politicians were on hand to commend the organization's work over the last five years including Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray, West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater and MLA Norm Letnick.
“It cannot be done without all the people in this room. The volunteers, the people who pick shoes up, the people who sort them, the people who distribute them, the people at the food bank and of course those people who look in their closets and donate those shoes,” said Letnick.
“The formula is so simple, this is the ultimate in recycling. Usually things that we have grown out of or is not fashionable anymore we throw out, but instead we can give them to something worthwhile. They will then help people in our community, in BC, or internationally it is just a very simple equation that works,” said Findlater.
Mayor Gray joked that Soles4Souls should raid City Councillor Maxine Dehart's shoe closet to which she commented she constantly donates from her impressive shoe collection.
And West Kelowna Mayor Findlater kept up with the jovial event mentioning some of his rather notorious sandals (always worn with socks) have also been donated.
Kelowna Sunrise Rotary was also on hand presenting a cheque for $10,000, the group has made a commitment to provide an annual donation of $10,000 to Soles4Souls for the next five years.
Belshaw also announced today that they are amping up their shoe drive which is taking place April 1 to April 30.
The new goal is to get up to 500,000 pairs of shoes by the end of 2014.
“Take a week or two with your office and collect me shoes and then bring them down to us and we will get them on the feet of British Columbians, and Haitians and Africans and everyone else around the world,” said Belshaw who added that they are in most desperate need of steel-toed work boots.
“We encourage everyone in the Okanagan to take a minute, clean out your closets, talk to you friends, your neighbours, your schools, your churches and do a shoe drive.”
To help Soles4Souls in BC, please swing by with shoes to drop off at the many Kelowna area locations: http://www.soles4soulscanada.com/drop-off/locations-in-british-columbia/kelowna/