Shoes4Sacramento needs your Shoes!
By Chantel Elder
Recently a post popped up on my Facebook feed. A friend reposted a request for shoes to be dropped off for Shoes4Sacramento.com – a local organization that collects shoes for people in need. I dug a little deeper to find an amazing, highly networked and increasingly expansive non-profit, headed by Christina Preston the big hearted genius behind the project.
The non-profit is quite simple; gather your gently used shoes, donate them to the project and Shoes4Sacramento (S4S) will connect them with people in need- but I really wanted to know how it all came about, and more about what makes the organization (and Christina) tick. Below is a Q & A with Christina – if it doesn’t make you want to dig through your closet and donate the gently used kicks that you aren’t wearing; I don’t know what will!
How did Shoes for Sacramento come about?
I was collecting shoes during my final year of undergraduate studies at CSUS. I was going to donate them to an international program that provides shoes primarily for disaster relief. However, I came across a poster for a Sacramento Steps Forward’s event “Homeless Connect” – a fair that provides free services for the homeless. They didn’t have an organization that gave away shoes when I checked into it, but said that shoes were definitely high demand items. I decided to collect more shoes and meet the demand for that event. I ended up collecting 400 pairs of shoes specifically for the event. It was an overwhelming experience that has continued to grow ever since!
A Little About Yourself
I love giving back to the community, especially because I struggled with a number of hardships as a child. My father died unexpectedly from a stroke when I was eight months old and my mom and I struggled financially. I ran away frequently as a teen and barely finished high school. Thankfully, I am doing much better as an adult due to the commitment of my mentors. I promised myself that I would give back to those in need when I was able. I am grateful for my struggles since it imbued me with empathy, and made me resourceful. My mom helps a lot with S4S too, and she is 70! It bonds us.
How can people help?
Donate your shoes! Also S4S needs sponsors. Volunteers help collect, and distribute the shoes. However, I have been covering overhead costs of storage, website hosting, as well as the cost for cleaning products, posters, bins, and additional expenses on my own. My strength is collecting shoes and coordinating people. I have been shy as far as the fundraising goes. The overhead costs are at the bare minimum and run around $2,000 dollars a year out of pocket for expenses.
Specifically what types of shoes are needed?
We accept all types of shoes that are in good conditions (without rips, holes or tears) but we are especially in need of Men’s shoes. Men tend to wear their shoes out before replacement so we do not receive as many donations of them. Work shoes or sneakers are ideal. Many of our shoes go to individuals living on the street who tend to wear them out quickly too. If the shoes are inappropriate such as stilettos, we donate them to thrift stores such as Wind Youth services and they are sold to help fund programs that assist the homeless.
Do you have a favorite memory or moment?
There are so many heart warming moments since S4S began. It seems that people tend to take shoes for granted unless they are on the streets. People on the streets go through shoes very quickly as they are moving from one place to another constantly. Their feet hurt, and their shoes wear out. Cuts and blisters can turn into a medical emergency for someone who is living in unsanitary conditions or has an auto-immune disorder. Shoes are typically the most expensive wardrobe item so you can imagine the difficulty in obtaining shoes when you don’t have any money, and shelters typically don’t carry a large supply of shoes due to storage issues. That’s where we come in and create a pop-up shoe store to help fulfill their shoe needs.
I have seen (and learned) so much since I started the project. We have helped people who were walking around in mismatched shoes, or wearing shoes two sizes too small. We have had people arrive wearing flip-flops because their feet were swollen. People are really excited and relieved to get something they can function in. If your feet hurt then everything starts to hurts. You start to walk funny, and start to strain other parts of your body.
Once I met a man who had a lot of mobility issues and used a wheel chair due to diabetes. When he came to the giveaway at Safe Ground Shelters, his feet were so swollen, and bandaged by a hospital after recent care. He said he had trouble keeping his feet clean and was unable to wear shoes due to swelling, so he had plastic bags wrapped around them to keep them clean. We were able to fit him with shoes that day, and it was such a great feeling.
Stories like this are not uncommon, and are just one of many. We’ve met people so desperate that they’ve cried when given shoes. We’ve met men so desperate for shoes they were willing to wear women’s. To be honest, I had no idea how much shoes were needed in our city until I did my first giveaway.
What services do you provide for children?
We provide shoes for kids attending the Kops-N-Kids summer camp. It’s a mentorship program for low-income kids that connect children with police and fire fighters. We partnered with them several years ago when an officer informed us that some participants didn’t have shoes to participate in the sports activities. Their shoes were too small or inappropriate in style. Some kids were trying to participate in the sports barefoot since their feet hurt so much. We have been collecting shoes for the children now for over four years!
Who are the local organizations in town that you admire and support?
I admire Safe Ground Shelters. They are a group of shelters that rotate between churches in downtown Sacramento on different nights. Dave Coburn and his volunteers are really wonderful and incredibly organized and easy to work with. They often take in people who can’t get intake to other shelters usually due to pets, drugs, etc. They provide a hot meal, clean sleeping bags, and other services to people on the streets and even offer movie nights! Every few months we do shoe giveaways and they have really been an essential partnership for us.
You could live anywhere, why Sacramento?
I love Sacramento. I was born and raised here. I’ve been to a lot of places in California, but people in Sacramento are obviously kind. It really does have a small-town feel about. It’s not too busy or overcrowded, people say “Hello” on the street and I love the diversity. People here want to help each other, and this project is a reflection of that. We distribute over 1,500-2,000 shoes a year, because people care.
Have shoes that you would like to donate? These three drop off locations are accepting shoes through June 2016!