Prime Minister’s wife sorts shoes in Kelowna

Laureen Harper showed her support for Soles4Souls Thursday.

Laureen Harper

Several volunteers of the Soles4Souls Canada initiative sorted shoes in an Industrial Avenue warehouse Thursday, just as they have done on a weekly basis since early April.

Meanwhile, reporters bumped elbows while hoisting cameras and microphones, trying to get the best footage of one woman: A volunteer who was sorting shoes in the south end of the warehouse.

Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was in Kelowna Thursday to show her support for Soles4Souls: An initiative that was brought to Canada by Jim Belshaw of Roy’s Shoes in 2010.

To date, Soles4Souls has raised nearly 400,000 pairs of shoes across the country. Most of the shoes are sent to other countries, while a percentage of the footwear is held onto for local residents in need.

“It helps local people and it also helps people in countries who don’t have shoes,” said Harper, who was already planning to fly to Vancouver and happily made the detour to Kelowna to show her support.

“We all have our charities…I discovered Soles4Souls through friends.”

Belshaw said this year’s shoe drive is on par with last year. Currently 40,000 pairs of shoes are sorted and boxed in the warehouse. He anticipates the total number will surpass 60,000 by the end of the month.

Although Thursday’s overwhelming media presence seemed to hinder the sorting effort during the 30 minutes Harper was in the warehouse, Belshaw said the event will boost the not-for-profit organization’s profile.

“We’re new, we’re building. Anything like this, it really exposes us to the masses,” said Belshaw.

“Because Mrs. Harper was here, we had way more press than usual, and more excitement. That will raise awareness right across Canada.”

Harper was joined by Grade 6 students from Kelowna Christian School, who also helped sort shoes Thursday.

Those still interested in donating shoes can drop off footwear at any Kelowna McDonalds or Starbucks location, as well as several other locations listed at soles4soulscanada.com.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com