Volunteers Make it Possible

From the blog of our president and CEO, Buddy Teaster

We have an amazing team at Soles4Souls. I continue to be blown away at the sheer volume of work that 40 people get done, day after day. Taking travels to dozens of countries, millions of shoes moving around the globe, telling stories online and in print to raise awareness and funds….it never stops. 

But the real engine of our work comes down to one word: volunteers. Each year, hundreds of thousands of you go into your closets and communities to donate your used shoes and clothes.

We have a 12 yr old boy leading a 25,000 pair shoe drive in Phoenix. We just created our first ever “volunteer of the year award” and named it after the incredible Michele James who, over the last seven years, has collected 500,000 pairs of shoes. We just finished our first fundraising event and involved more than 35 volunteers that helped raise more than $130,000 to support our work giving away free shoes to those in need. The dozens of volunteers who travel thousands of miles with our team every year to distribute new shoes to children in schools and orphanages in developing nations.

We have a college sophomore who, with her family, has collected 250,000 pairs of shoes in Minnesota and she’s taking us with her as she does a semester abroad in Rome where she plans to collect shoes. We have a volunteer board who dedicates hundreds of hours to helping guide our organization to have even more impact on poverty. 

As a matter of fact, just today, we had Bank of America volunteering in our warehouse after collecting 404 pairs of shoes during their shoe drive. I could go on and on with these stories. People who have busy lives, complicated stories and endless demands on their time. Yet, somehow, every day they find the time to go outside themselves to help another person. Not a family member, not a friend, but a stranger. Just like they find the time to help, they find the connection to the part of us that recognizes how slim the difference is between “them and us.” That our common humanity and sense of good fortune compels the better angels of our nature (from Lincoln’s first inaugural address) to lift up those we can, without judging how they came to be in that position.

I say it often, but without volunteers, Soles4Souls could not exist. They power everything we do. They make it possible for a woman in Haiti to send her son to University, something no one has ever done in her family. Volunteers help keep young girls off the street in Transnistria and help create an opportunity for a mother in Honduras to pay for English lessons for her young daughter.

To all of you who give of your time, talent and treasure, thank you from the bottom of my heart.