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Collect 70,000 pairs of shoes? No problem.

Rod Meeker can tell you a thing or two about shoe drives. The Northeast Ohio native is on his third 25,000 pair drive, and he’s not stopping any time soon. To date, he has collected around 70,000 pairs of gently used shoes.

Rod’s involvement with Soles4Souls started back in 2016, when he began his first drive with his daughter Madison, who was a junior in high school at the time. If and when a volunteer finishes a 25K drive, they are awarded two trips on one of our Global Experiences trips. So after Rod and Madison completed the drive, they were awarded trips to Haiti, where he opted to give his spot to his daughter’s best friend. It wasn’t until completing his second 25K drive that Rod was able to travel for the first time with Soles4Souls to Arizona, where he helped distribute shoes to children throughout the Navajo Reservation in August of 2019.

Now, over four years later, Rod has become a leader to others looking to get more involved by being a mentor within the Sole Tribe Ambassador program, a community of Soles4Souls’ most passionate and active supporters. 

“My favorite part [of being in Sole Tribe]is how great it is to see people decide they want to help and make a difference, no matter the size they contribute. And of course, getting to meet new people,” says Rod.

Rod stores all the shoes he collects in a storage unit, which is now full with over 10,000 pairs of shoes. 

“The various donations that come in are from people I help set up their own shoe drives– many different vacation bible schools, a bunch of high schools, athletic teams… I’m the collection point for them. And then I do a lot myself with road races, 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, triathlons… I love doing this. I love the opportunity to give back and all the relationships and people we meet along the way,” says Rod. 

Stay at home orders throughout COVID-19 have certainly presented more challenges for Rod in collecting, but he has still remained plugged into his community by coordinating pickups while avoiding contact. His advice to others? Even among the circumstances, don’t be intimated to collect, because even a small amount can help. He has faith that things will go back to normal eventually, but that getting a good start now will go a long way in the end.

“It’s just amazing and I don’t ever see myself stopping,” says Rod.

Want to start a shoe drive of your own? Get started here.