Footwear Firms Come Up Big for Haiti Relief

Footwear donations continue to poor in for the victims of last month’s Haiti earthquake.

Soles4Souls is overseeing the bulk of the industry’s efforts and has pledged more than 2 million pairs of shoes, thanks to donations from companies and individuals.

“This will surpass collections that we’ve done during the aftermath of the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina,” said Wayne Elsey, founder and CEO of Soles4Souls Inc. “I’m amazed at how everyone, from retail executives to salespeople to consumers, have all plugged in.”

Shoes are arriving daily in Haiti, although it’s not known exactly how many have reached the country, Elsey said.

A large number of shoe brands and retailers have contributed to Soles4Souls’ Project Haiti effort. There are more than 8,000 Soles4Souls collection locations that are accepting shoes and monetary donations. For example, Sports Chalet alone has collected at least 950,000 pairs, while Foot Solutions said last week it had received around 100,000 pairs.

“Americans are looking to help by donating cash or by cleaning out their closets,” Elsey said. “When people clean out their closets, they look to fill them back up again, which is good for the industry.”

Celebrities also have contributed to the Project Haiti effort. Jessica Simpson, Kim Kardashian, Zach Braff and Donald Faison, among others, have all shown their support for Soles4Souls, mostly through the use of social media promotions.

In the meantime, Shoes2Share, a smaller charity organization, has exceeded the amount of shoes it had planned to donate as part of its Operation: The Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort.

Founded seven years ago by Tim and Rhoda Wampler, Shoes2Share’s goal was to collect 10,000 pairs, but it now has nearly 50,000 pairs ready to be shipped to Haiti. “We’ve been working 14 to 16 hours a day,” Tim Wampler said. “This is definitely the biggest project we’ve ever worked on.”

Operation Blessing, the seventh-largest international charity in the world, received a donation of more than 73,000 pairs of women’s and children’s shoes from Chinese Laundry and plans to send them to Haiti this month.

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