NEW YORK — Two Ten Footwear Foundation is taking its community service to another level.
To coincide with National Volunteer Week next month, the Waltham, Mass.-based nonprofit is introducing Footwear Cares, a weeklong initiative in which shoe companies across the country will participate in various community service activities.
“The footwear industry is unlike any other in the U.S.,” said Two Ten President Neal Newman. “We wanted to illuminate our industry’s compassion and philanthropy on a national platform.”
As part of the pilot program, taking place April 21-27, more than 50 firms will spend a weekday running events in their local communities, such as gathering donations for food banks, volunteering at shelters and partnering with local schools. Companies participating include Steven Madden, New Balance, Zappos.com, Puma, Clarks, Timberland, Wolverine World Wide and Brown Shoe, among others.
Tobias Reiss-Schmidt, president and CEO of The Rockport Co., noted that participating in Footwear Cares is a way of unifying the shoe industry. “It’s very unique that companies that compete on a daily basis can join forces to help people in the larger community,” he said. “It’s part of the culture of the industry and very much a part of the culture here at Rockport.”
During the community service week, Rockport will host a career day with a local high school, where the firm will teach teens about different job opportunities in the footwear industry.
And while there is no financial gain for participating, Reiss-Schmidt noted there is a benefit to employee morale. “It absolutely makes sense for us to be involved because it creates a sense of community for everyone in the company,” he said. “It’s very rewarding for employees to be part of something beyond just trying to sell shoes.”
Jennet Chow, founder and CEO of Irwindale, Calif.-based Evolution Design Labs, said the new initiative will strengthen Two Ten’s national outreach beyond just footwear. Her company plans to work with food banks in Los Angeles and Milwaukee during the week.
“We’ve always been very involved in Two Ten because they’ve been so supportive of us as a company,” Chow said. “It’s exciting to see all the footwear companies come together and work to help more people outside of the industry.”
Two Ten also is making a push for more exposure with this new effort.
Working with public relations firm McGrath Matter Associates, the organization will kick off Footwear Cares on the steps of New York City Hall on Monday, April 22. The week’s events also can be followed on Twitter through the hashtag #footwearcares.
Looking ahead, Two Ten’s president is optimistic about making Footwear Cares an annual event, as well as boosting involvement among companies in the industry. At press time, the foundation is expecting 3,000 volunteers nationwide. “We’re running this as a pilot this year to see what the momentum is,” Newman said. “It’s exceeded our expectations so far, and I think we could double [participation] next year.”