A shoe charity with a collection station in Minot is putting out a plea that people clean out their closets and donate their extra shoes.
Soles4Souls, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., reports that it has nearly depleted its supplies of both new and gently worn shoes in responding to the U.S. economy and many natural disasters around the world.
"We give away a pair of shoes every seven seconds all around the world, and we are just really getting depleted because of the economy in America," Soles4Souls founder Wayne Elsey said. "Right now in America, our request is probably doubled what it was last year so we are really feeling a pinch. If there's a hurricane that comes along or another big event, we are really going to jeopardize our inventory. We are just really asking all Americans to be generous, as they were before, and clean out their closets."
Mile One Running Shop, located on 10th Street Southwest, behind the Dakota Square Mall, is a collection point for Soles4Souls and ships out shoes monthly.
"We are proud to be able to play a part," owner Connie Feist said. "We have had a tremendous response."
Many customers bring in their worn shoes when they buy new ones, she said. A shoe drive in Devils Lake also provided several boxes that Mile One was able to ship to Soles4Souls. The drive organizers also provided some funds to assist with shipping, which always is welcome because shipping to the distribution center is a local cost.
Soles4Souls also depends on donations for shipping from its distribution centers to locations around the world. Elsey said a gift of $1 with each donated pair is enough to cover the shoes' travels. Suddath, a moving company with offices across the southern United States, has teamed with Soles4Souls to offer discount transportation and storage facilities.
Elsey said Soles4Souls offers both mass distributions to areas of needs and small distributions to individual families going through crisis.
"I believe there's a natural disaster happening in people's lives without a hurricane and tsunami, and we want to be there for them. At the same time we have had huge pressure on our organization with what's happening in Haiti. We have distributed millions of shoes to Haiti," he said.
Elsey, who has made five trips to Haiti, said the needs remain great in that country, and more shoe shipments are planned. Soles4Souls also has shipped more than 250,000 pairs of shoes to Pakistan following flooding, has helped people along the Gulf Coast and answered countless requests from Americans struggling economically.
Athletic shoes are most in demand, although the organization accepts footwear of all types. It doesn't throw out any footwear. If donated shoes are not usable, the charity recycles them into materials for playgrounds, insulation and other uses.
Soles4Souls accepts shoes from warehouses of footwear companies as well as urging people to donate from the estimated 1.5 billion pairs sitting idle in closets. Since 2005, Soles4Souls has given away 10 million shoes in 126 countries. Low stocks have occurred once before when the organization responded to three natural disasters within a five-week period.
Donations to Soles4Souls are tax deductible. For more information, people can visit (www.giveshoes.org).