Interview with Soles4Souls

November 26th, 2012

Kato, the main character in Alma Fullerton and Karen Patkau’s new picture book A Good Trade, is overwhelmed with gratitude when he receives a pair of shoes. Did you ever wonder why? What makes a pair of shoes so exciting? To answer that question, we’re interviewing representatives from organizations that have devoted themselves to shoes, kids, and changing lives. Today our featured organization is Soles4Souls.

Soles4Souls first sent shoes to those in need when our founder, Wayne Elsey, saw the aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami. He was a footwear executive and pulled his resources and contacts together to send shoes to the victims. He did the same during Hurricane Katrina—this led him to start the charity!

Where do your shoes come from?

Our shoes come from our incredible donors. Our used shoes come from individuals and their workplaces, schools, churches, town community centers and more. In addition, we have a team that works directly with shoe designers, manufacturers, retailers, distributors and warehouses to procure their excess inventory.

Where do they go?

Our shoes go everywhere! We distribute here in the United States and in 127 other countries around the world. We only send new shoes to locations in the United States, while we distribute both new and used product internationally. Some of our used inventory is utilized for micro businesses purposes to help eradicate poverty in third world countries.

Some people worry that an influx of donated shoes can disrupt local businesses and economies. Do you have any measures in place to protect or encourage sustainable economies in the places where you work?

We sure do! When we travel internationally to distribute shoes, we give them to orphanages and schools. These are people who could otherwise not afford a pair of shoes and who could contract diseases from not wearing shoes. We also work with micro enterprise partners to offer shoes as a means of a sustainable income. Our micro-enterprise program does not interfere, but enhances the local economy and provides long-term sustainability for women and men in developing nations.

Do you have a favorite story or experience from you work with Soles4Souls that you would like to share?

Yeah! I have the pleasure of hearing the stories from some of our top donors and sharing them on our blog. One of my favorites is of a little girl in Canada who collected shoes for us. She made a video invitation to her birthday party and asked friends and family to bring her shoes to give to kids in need, rather than buying her a gift. It’s inspiring to see someone as young as seven years old making a difference in the world!

What is your organization’s vision for the future?

There are approximately 1.5 billion people in the world without shoes and 300 million of them are children. Our vision and goal is to drastically lower that number.

Rebecca Cicione is a Social Media Engagement Specialist with Soles4Souls. She has been working with the organization since September, 2011.

To learn more about Soles4Souls, visit

Posted in A Good Trade