Shoe Bank Canada volunteers proudly display their new name in their shoe warehouse, located across from the Food Bank.
Soles4Souls Canada Becomes Shoe Bank Canada & Kicks Off Spring Shoe Drive
To help more Canadians, the Kelowna-based charity that brings footwear to those in need has changed its name from Soles4Souls Canada to Shoe Bank Canada. And, on the heels of its name change, Shoe Bank Canada is kicking off its sixth annual shoe drive.
From steel-toed boots and children’s gym sneakers to high heels and comfy runners, organizers hope to collect tens of thousands of pairs of shoes throughout the Interior this month.
Steve Goddard, Shoe Bank Canada co-founder, board member and volunteer, says he sees firsthand every day how outfitting a fellow in a pair of boots or finding a pair of pumps for a woman helps people get jobs that turn things around for families.
“We’ve helped put a lot of people back to work, and that’s one of the most rewarding things about what we do,” says Goddard, who says recipients often visit the Shoe Bank to thank volunteers’ days after earning a position. “They’re just so appreciative. Barely a day goes by when we don’t have somebody in tears in there.”
Kelowna’s less fortunate began receiving footwear this way six years ago, when Jim Belshaw, owner of Roy’s Shoes, founded a local chapter of Soles4Souls Canada, an international shoe charity based in the US. Before sending footwear across the border and overseas, Belshaw always saw to the needs of locals, and agencies were soon calling him regularly with requests.
But digging through boxes after hours to find a runner in an eight or a boot in a nine became a little time-consuming. And then Belshaw had a big idea: Why not partner with the Kelowna Community Food Bank to house a Shoe Bank so everyone has access to shoe donations any time? Last July, the Shoe Bank—set up like a shoe store—opened on Ellis Street, directly across from the food bank.
“We’ve had such an amazing response,” says Goddard. Since the summer, and with the help of nearly 20 local service agencies guiding the qualifying process, the Shoe Bank has provided more than 3,000 pairs of shoes to the working poor and homeless in 900 households. “It’s been incredible.”
In the midst of all the buzz, the Soles4Souls Board of Directors wondered if the Kelowna group should focus more on taking care of Canadians in need, and soon, Soles4Souls Canada became Shoe Bank Canada, a Kelowna-based national organization with dozens of permanent drop-off locations in cities across BC, Alberta and Ontario.
“This is about Canadians helping Canadians first,” says Belshaw. “There’s such a need here, so we’re making a difference in our own backyard first, as well as overseas.”
Instead of heading to the US for worldwide distribution, shoe donations now first go to Canadians. In BC alone, shoes are shipped to 30 communities through 200 social agencies across BC. And then excess is shipped to the less-fortunate abroad.
Here in Kelowna, storefronts and businesses such as Starbuck’s, Tom Harris Cellular, McDonald’s, and Capri Insurance have offered to host drop boxes for shoe donations. Another critical source of donations is Shoe Bank Canada’s annual spring shoe drive, taking place in Kelowna April 27 to May 24.
“This is one of those little things you can do to really feel good and help make a difference,” says Goddard.
To make a shoe donation:
- Ensure shoes are gently used and suitable for wear
- Please use an elastic or tie shoelaces to keep shoes together
- Look for a shoe drive or permanent collection box in your area, or find a location near you
Shipping all those boots and pumps across Canada adds up—it costs about $1 to ship one pair of shoes—so, individuals and groups are also welcome to donate funds towards shipping.
About Shoe Bank Canada
Shoe Bank Canada collects shoes from individuals and footwear companies and distributes them to people in need in Canada and around the world. The organization now has permanent drop-off locations in cities across BC, Alberta and Ontario, and the community is also encouraged to donate during annual spring shoe drives.
For more information, please contact:
Jim Belshaw: firstname.lastname@example.org