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Local Drive Turns Shoes into Food for the Less Fortunate in Haiti

Shoe Drive
Dennis Edwards stands on a pile of donated shoes. Photo Credit: Lora Hobbs

One local non-profit organization has found a way to turn old shoes into food for the needy in Haiti. The third annual "Sole Food" shoe drive is underway across the Ozarks. KSMU’s Melanie Foehrweiser spoke to one of the organizers and has this report.

Sole Food is a fundraising project of Friends Against Hunger. Lora Hobbs is an instructor at Missouri State University and organizes the shoe drive alongside Molly and Dennis Edwards. Hobbs says the idea for the drive started with a connection to Springfield in a place you might not expect.

“It actually started in Haiti when I was down there in 2010 after the earthquake with a group and we were distributing food in a tent city every day. And as we were doing that, I learned that the food we were distributing actually came from Springfield, from Friends Against Hunger”

When Hobbs and her group returned, some of them began volunteering with Friends Against Hunger and noticed the organization, like many non-profits, had one glaring need:  funding. Around this same time, Hobbs ran into a man who wanted to buy something that many people throw away: used shoes.

“We entered into a partnership with him…with Shoeman Water Project…and so we collect unwanted shoes through organizations, individuals, businesses every fall and then we hand those over to Shoeman Water Project and they give us so much per pound for those shoes, ” says Hobbs. 

The money from the shoe sale goes directly to Friends Against Hunger. This year, the money will go to the Meals a Million weekend. That’s an event where volunteers pack meals which will then be distributed in the U.S., Haiti, El Salvador, and Mexico.

But the story doesn’t end there. Shoeman Water Project sells the used shoes to a distributor which takes them to Haiti and East Africa and hands them out to those who might otherwise go barefoot. Money from that sale goes toward putting water purification systems in villages in Haiti and Kenya.

Hobbs says she's seen the Sole Food drive grow over the past two years, and this year, organizers have set their sights even higher.

“Last year, we collected almost 25 thousand pounds of shoes and that resulted in about eight thousand dollars for Friends Against Hunger. And this year our goal, by Thanksgiving, is to collect 100,000 pounds of shoes.”   

Sole Food collects shoes at many area businesses, and Hobbs says the two Harter House stores in Springfield will begin collecting shoes on October 3rd. For links to a full list of shoe collection sites, or for information on how to volunteer at the Meals a Million Weekend, visit our website, www.KSMU.org.

For KSMU News, I’m Melanie Foehrweiser.

LINKS: 

Shoe Donation Locations

Meals a Million Weekend