Soles4Souls collects shoes of any kind and distributes them to those in need.
By Emily Bailey
You are never too young to make a difference.
Soles4Souls is just one of many nonprofits proving that age is just a number. This international nonprofit invites anyone—students, churches, soccer teams, you name it—to join them in their mission of collecting and distributing shoes to people in need.
Soles4Souls was formed when founder Wayne Elsey wanted to contribute to relief efforts after seeing the extensive media coverage of the Southeast Asia tsunami damage in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina damage in 2005. From this one man’s vision, Soles4Souls has grown into a reputable nonprofit that has distributed more than 19 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries, proving their commitment to their mission of “changing the world, one pair at a time.”
LACE Up is a freshman leadership program at Auburn University encouraging students to “Lead, Act, Contribute and Exceed,” and has partnered with Soles4Souls for the past three years. “I’ve been working with Soles4Souls since my freshman year,” Bradley Burroughs, a junior at Auburn, said. “I have at least eight pairs of shoes in my closet, so we are giving a small thing. But it makes a huge difference.” Since he started working with Soles4Souls, the group has collected a total of about 25,000 pairs of shoes.
“What’s cool about Soles4Souls is that in many of the countries where they distribute the shoes, kids can’t go to school without a pair of shoes, so really you are also helping these children get an education,” he said. “I feel like that’s the purpose of community service—not getting anything from it except a sense of accomplishment. It’s all about doing our part here.”
Soles4Souls values the passion and energy of the young people who partner with them. Elizabeth Kirk, Soles4Souls director of communications, says that high school students are amazing at starting projects, such as shoe drives, and quickly spreading the word. “It’s a great mix of passion, the need to share with peers and the desire to make an impact outside of themselves,” Kirk said. “Since most students don’t have checking accounts, asking for something other than money, like shoes, is an easier and more achievable task.”
Auburn University freshman Hallie Mauldin is also a member of LACE Up. Mauldin emphasizes the impact volunteerism has not only on the people in need, but also the volunteers themselves. “This is my first experience in being a part of a nonprofit,” Mauldin said. “I can definitely say it has changed my outlook on life and has given me inspiration to continue working with nonprofit organizations. It really broadens your horizon on life outside of your little bubble.”
Whether you host a Soles4Souls Shoe Drive in your community or partner with another nonprofit organization, there are plenty of opportunities to make an impact, regardless of your age. “My biggest piece of advice is don’t think you can’t do this,” Burroughs said. “Everyone has the ability to reach a goal and make a difference.”
For information on Soles4Souls or hosting your own shoe drive, visit www.soles4souls.org.