Saturday, December 3, 2011

So Long Shoes

"I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver."
- Maya Angelou

No, don't think by the title of this blog that I'm discarding my shoes and going shoeless. Nope, ain't gonna happen...ever!! However, if you run barefoot, then you might just want to ignore this post.

I wouldn't consider myself a pack rat, but the other day I had a weird experience. I was trying to get something out of the trunk of my car and I noticed I had three old pairs of running shoes in there blocking my way with their laces tied neatly together waiting for the day I would take them down to the Trak Shak Running Store. Now, understand, I go to The Trak Shak often, and those shoes have probably been in there for months. Just sat in the trunk. Unusable as running shoes. Then I started to realize all the old running shoes I had strewn around the house. I mean I have at least 2-3 pair that have been designated "not-fit-for-running" shoes that I wear when I go out to the store or travel. Then I looked under the futon in my Trophy Room...Ok, our computer room/guest room/son's old room. There were two discarded running shoes that probably still have a good number of miles on them. Let's take a look in the closet. Well, what do you know...another pair of running shoes and TWO pair of old trail shoes. It's so bad, I even have a pair of old trail shoes on the deck designated as "throw-the-garbage-out" shoes! Add to all this are my current shoes; two pair of Hokas (I love them), one pair of Kahru's, and a pair of Merrell high top Mountain Trail Racers.

As I was stumbling over this mess, a thought crossed my mind - why in god's name do I need dozens of old, worn out running shoes? I can't seem to let go! These aren't just shoes. They accompanied me through rain, sun, mud, dust, road, trail. My good runs, my crappy runs, and all those many, many runs in between. It then occurred to me. I had to say goodbye to this old heap of shoes. Keeping an extra "retired" pair or two of running shoes to walk around the Galleria or a ball game is one thing, but having a different pair to wear every day of the month just ain't sane.

So, I decided to do a little looking around and see if there was a better alternative than to giving these shoes to Goodwill or just dropping them in one of those clothing bins you see by the side of the road. Surprisingly, I found there are quite a few organizations you can donate your old shoes to. Here's what I found:

Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program collects worn-out athletic shoes (any brand, not just Nike) and recycles them (rather than going into landfills) into material used in sports surfaces like basketball courts, tennis courts, athletic fields, running tracks and playgrounds for kids around the world. They seem to cater more towards groups doing shoe drives.

Shoe Bank provides shoes for 20,000 people every year -- primarily children, both in the United States and abroad. I liked this site a lot because they seem to target children and the homeless, but this appears to be mostly a Texas based charity.

Sole Responsibility is a nonprofit organization started by runners in Ottawa, Canada, who donate gently used running and walking shoes to needy people overseas (mostly Africa). They collect running shoes of all shapes and sizes, adult and children's sizes, but it seems pretty difficult to donate unless you're in Canada.

Share Your Sole is an Illinois-based organization that collects, cleans, and distributes gently-used shoes to needy and impoverished people all over the world. Again, a very worthy organization with a strong program, but in the Chicago area and difficult to donate outside that area.

Give Your Sole seeks to provide less fortunate men, women, and children with moderately worn athletic shoes collected at race events. I really liked their website. They only collect at Race events - I have to see if we can maybe get hooked up with them next year at the Mercedes Marathon. Visit their web site to find out what races they'll be at and where you can send donations.

I finally decided on Soles4Souls. They are a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and the closets of people like you and me. The charity distributes these shoes to people in need, regardless of race, religion, class, or any other criteria. Since 2005, Soles4Souls has delivered over 16 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes. The shoes have been distributed to people in over 127 countries, including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States. Plus, for those of you in Birmingham, Alabama, they have a local drop-off site. Their website has a "drop off locator" to find the place closest to you by zip code.

So, now I have to collect my heap of shoes, bring 'em down to the drop-off, and feel good knowing they are going to do a whole lot more good than sitting in my trunk, or in my closet, or...well, you get the idea. At least I hope you get the BIG idea.

I'll see you on the roads as I wear down another pair of shoes - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

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