NASHVILLE, Tenn., Jan. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake on January 12, Soles4Souls has seen widespread support from the footwear industry, schools, churches and individuals collecting footwear and funds on behalf of the charity. Soles4Souls estimates it has already allocated 1.3 million pairs of shoes for distribution in Haiti throughout 2010.
"We know this will be a long and difficult rebuilding process," said Wayne Elsey, Founder and CEO of Nashville-based Soles4Souls. "We are planning a sustained giving campaign that will allow us to responsibly distribute over 1.3 million pairs in Haiti during 2010. We are very thankful for our partners on the ground in Haiti and for those in North America who are making a difference with the gift of shoes," he said.
Five years ago, Elsey rallied fellow executives from the footwear industry in order to send 250,000 pairs of shoes for survivors of the Asian tsunami. During Hurricane Katrina his grassroots shoe drives netted 1.1 million pairs of shoes. This time, however, Elsey has been fielding thousands of phone calls instead of making them, and estimates that the total number of footwear already exceeds 1.3 million pairs.
"We can't say enough about the people of the footwear industry, who are making a huge commitment to help wherever they can," Elsey said. "From major footwear brands to small retail stores, each has made a strong commitment to collect shoes and funds to ship new footwear to Haiti. These are regular people who just want to help in a tangible way and we are very grateful for their partnership because we couldn't do it without them," he said.
Elsey estimates that over $20 million in footwear and funds have been pledged since the earthquake. There are more than 5,000 shoe drives running in a wide variety of locations throughout the country. "Most of the events are in local shoe retailers, schools or churches, but there are many drives happening in non-footwear businesses, neighborhoods and other civic groups," Elsey said. "I received pictures of a child going around his neighborhood with a wagon and collecting shoes for the people of Haiti, and when I saw this, I wept to see the commitment that even children can have to help the hurting. It's so real and so close, and there's been this outpouring of compassion for the poor," he said.
On the ground, Soles4Souls has distributed tens of thousands of shoes in feeding centers, school courtyards, open-air church grounds, former marketplaces and other secured locations. In addition, Soles4Souls and its partners have already distributed thousands of "family relief packages," which include food, water, medical supplies, cleaning products, baby products and clothes, as well as shoes.
Elsey also noted that to help support the recovery of the Haitian economy, Soles4Souls hopes to extend its micro-business program to Haiti in 2011. This program allows the resale of a small amount of refurbished shoes in desperately poor parts of the world, where individuals can earn more than ten times the standard daily rate of living and help lift an entire region out of abject poverty.
Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from warehouses of footwear companies and the closets of people like you. We distribute these shoes, free of charge, to people in need around the world. Since 2005, Soles4Souls has given away over 7 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes (currently distributing one pair every 9 seconds). The shoes have been distributed in 125 countries, including Haiti, Kenya, Nepal and the United States. Soles4Souls is a 501(c )(3) recognized by the IRS and donating parties are eligible for tax advantages.