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Engaging a Community Through Shoes

It’s not every day that you see a garage filled with 4,500 shoes, but for Audrey Ramos of Layton, Utah, it’s hardly been used for cars since 2015. 

“I call it my She-Shoe-Shed,” she laughs.

Audrey works as the store manager for Brighton Collectibles in Farmington, Utah. Brighton, which has 180 stores nationwide, is a partner of Soles4Souls, and hosts competitions for shoe drives across the company every year.

Audrey started collecting in 2015, and recalls wondering at first how she could prioritize a drive on top of working full-time. Her outlook quickly changed, however, as she realized how easily she could engage her community.

“Your wheels are just constantly turning… How can I get involved? How can I do more?” she says.

She first started by reaching out to high schools, where students need to complete community service hours. Soon enough, schools became involved, and Boy Scouts– even her local Home Depot donating boxes. 

“I come home sometimes and there are shoes on my porch just because people know me now. Once you start doing it, and the people in your community know, they save their shoes for you,” she says.

Audrey has collected around 10,000 pairs every year since starting. In April of this year, however, collecting shoes looks a bit different than it did before. Due to COVID-19, Audrey and other employees at Brighton were furloughed. Nevertheless, having the extra time has only motivated her more with her shoe drive.

“Seeing everybody cleaning out their closets— that’s an opportunity! Getting people to drop shoes at my house, and leave them on the porch. It’s different times now, but there’s still a way to collect safely,” she says.

Audrey has travelled with Soles4Souls on three Global Experiences trips over the years– once to Madagascar, and twice to Honduras.

“Seeing micro-enterprise in person and meeting the women who sell shoes… It just motivated me even more. One of my favorite memories is when we were driving through a village in Madagascar and stopped on the side of the road to get bananas. There was a family there working, and when I looked at them, I noticed not a single one of them had shoes. So we gave them shoes. They were not expecting us, and certainly not shoes for that matter. It was so neat to witness,” she says.

Audrey recalls feeling “a hole” in her heart when returning from each trip. 

“It’s just the connections you get when you’re there. Doing this keeps that connection alive,” she says.

For tips on how you can safely host a shoe drive, visit our website here.