Industry Rallies for Haiti

The footwear industry came together in a big way this week to prepare shoe donation shipments for victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Soles4Souls Inc. said it will donate more than 1 million pairs of new and used boots and shoes to the people of Haiti following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake, which hit last Tuesday. The organization had originally planned to give away 100,000 pairs, but due to overwhelming response from the industry, was able to increase the donation. (Rocket Dog announced Friday it would give 8,200 pairs as part of the effort by Soles4Souls.)

According to Wayne Elsey, founder and CEO of Soles4Souls, several containers will arrive in the next seven to 10 days. “We are going to make a sustainable difference in the area and are working toward longer-term plans,” Elsey said.

He added that Soles4Souls has partnered with other organizations on the effort. For example, the Nashville, Tenn.-based group is putting together relief packages with Kiwi Shoe Care that consist of food, water, medical supplies, tents, duffle bags, blankets and baby products.

Foot Solutions said last Thursday it is accepting donations on behalf of Soles4Souls of gently used shoes, as well as monetary donations, at any of its 240 stores.

“Foot Solutions is working aggressively with Soles4Souls to help our Haitian neighbors in this terrible disaster,” Ray Margiano, Foot Solutions CEO and founder, said in a written statement. “I am well aware of the level of poverty that exists and the shortage of supplies that are difficult on a normal level, and this is especially hard on this struggling country.”

Another organization, Shoes2Share, has launched Operation: The Haitian Earthquake Relief Effort (T.H.E.R.E.). The group has set a goal to collect 10,000 pairs, or one to two tractor-trailer loads worth, of shoes and supplies for the people of Haiti. Shoes2Share is particularly looking for workboot donations, but also sneakers and dress shoes. The group is also collecting medical and infant supplies, as well as toiletries, blankets, socks, flashlights and water, among other items.

“Shoes are hard-to-get items in the country in the best of times,” said Tim Wampler, founder of Shoes2Share. “We’re hoping to get [the shoes] there in 30 to 60 days.”

Shoes2Share, which was founded by Wampler and his wife, Rhonda, had shipped a tractor-trailer container of shoes to Haiti last year by working with Coconut Creek, Fla.-based Food for the Poor. The two organizations will work together again to send the new containers to the island nation.

Timberland Co., meanwhile, has encouraged consumers to donate to the newly formed Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund. The firm had already partnered with the Yele Haiti Foundation, which it describes as “a grassroots movement that builds global awareness for Haiti while transforming the country through educational, cultural and environmental programs.”

As part of the partnership, Timberland makes a donation to Yele Haiti for every pair of Earthkeepers Yele Haiti boots and Yele Haiti T-shirts sold, and those funds will now be refocused to the country’s earthquake relief efforts.

At press time, no footwear firms or shoe factories appeared to be directly affected by the disaster.

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