Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Soles4Souls Charitable Shoe Drive Comes to Whitman

Do you have old shoes gathering dust in your closet that someone else could make use of?

Senior Alyssa Roberg and Alumnus Conor Holton-Burke ’12 bet that you do, and in order to make productive use of all those worn shoes, they have contacted Soles4Souls to set up a chapter of the nonprofit organization at Whitman. Soles4Souls is an organization that collects donated shoes and distributes them for crisis-relief and to support micro-enterprise in impoverished countries.

Roberg and Holton-Burke were struck by how many old shoes they owned that they no longer had any use for, and they figured that many other Whitman students were likely in the same boat.

“We’re both tennis players, and it’s so obvious when we use shoes, and when they get worn on the bottom, that we can’t use them for our sport anymore, but that they’re still really good shoes,” Roberg said.

By placing boxes all around campus, Roberg and Holton-Burke will collect all of the shoes donated by students and community members and then send those shoes to the nearest Soles4Souls warehouse, where they will then be distributed all around the world to developing communities that need footwear.

“[The shoes] go all over the world. Part of it is donated for crisis relief, so wherever it’s needed at that moment in time,” Roberg said.

For now, all of the shoes that are in good condition and don’t need fixing up are destined for Haiti. The shoes that do need fixing up, however, are used to supply an entirely different model of charity: micro-enterprises. Micro-enterprises are market-based charitable programs designed to assist people in impoverished countries in starting and running their own businesses.

“The ones that need fixing go anywhere from Kenya to the Appalachian region … They don’t give them––they sell them at a very cheap price and then the cobblers fix them and sell them [to] make a profit. So then people get jobs and other people get cheap shoes. Give a person a fish and they eat for a day; teach a person to fish, they eat for life,” Holton-Burke said.

The shoe drive began in early February and is expected to continue into April.

“We wanted to give the Seattleites and Portlanders a chance to go back and pick [shoes] up from their homes and bring them back from spring break,” Holton-Burke said.

Progress has been quick, however, and students hope that this first week was indicative of future success. The boxes have only been out for a week, and already Roberg and Holton-Burke have collected about a hundred pairs of shoes.

“Our goal is 500 [pairs], and if you think about, if a third of Whitman donates one pair of shoes, we’ve reached that goal. So that’s what we’re aiming for, but obviously we’re not going to stop until the shoe drive ends,” Roberg said.

In order to realize their goal, Rober and Holton-Burke are not limiting the drive to Whitman. They are looking towards the Walla Walla community for support as well, and have plans to make further outreach efforts.

“We’re reaching out not only to Whitman students but [to] the Walla Walla community as well. We’ve already had quite a few community members who use the tennis courts or who go to the gym and have seen it and donate, which is really cool. So we’re trying to spread the word everywhere, not just among the Whitman community,” Roberg said.

While the scope of the shoe drive is large relative to Whitman’s small size, Roberg and Holton-Burke have organized the entire charity event themselves. They both said that the assistance of Soles4Souls has made it incredibly easy for them plan and execute the drive on their own. Now it is simply a matter of getting the word out and making Whitman students and Walla Walla community members aware of the drive and the charity it represents.

“[Soles4Souls] makes it so easy. It’d be really cool to see it in a lot of schools. Especially if you think about how small Whitman is, if it was at a big school like UW, how many shoes they could get,” Roberg said.

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