The demand for adequate footwear in the Okanagan and across the country is bigger than Shoe Bank Canada can deal with.
During the non-profit’s annual shoe drive, founder Jim Belshaw is pleading with Canadians to clean out their closets and donate their gently used soles.
Since 2010, more than 40,000 pairs of shoes have been distributed to Canadians in need thanks to the more than 100 agencies who help deliver the footwear.
However Belshaw says the Shoe Bank, which started in Kelowna, needs to focus on those who need footwear in the Okanagan first and foremost.
“We’ve had to say no to most of the requests outside of the Okanagan,” he said. “We are looking after our own backyard first and whatever we can do wherever in Canada that we can do it we will. We have sent stuff west to Haida Gwaii, east out to Nunavut to an elementary school in Igloolik; wherever the requests come in we try to accommodate them.”
More and more requests are coming from right here in the Okanagan, especially since the opening of the Shoe Bank’s permanent location in downtown Kelowna three years ago.
“Two days a week, three-and-a-half hours a day we see 75 households come in (to the permanent drop off location),” explained Belshaw. “And a household could be one person or a family of eight or ten people.”
Between the permanent shoe bank location and the partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Okanagan, this spring’s shoe drive is vitally important.
Andrew Greer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Okanagan explains that the Big Shoes Little Feet program started just last year and managed to distribute 50 pairs to children in the area.
“We knew the demand would increase with our work day in and day out in the school district, we see the need and so we expected there would be some take up and now we are expanding the program through the school councillors and discreetly getting shoes on to children’s feet,” he said.
There has also been a demand in footwear for winter which has prompted the non-profit to create a fall shoe drive on top of the spring drive.
“This last winter we did not have enough shoes and boots, we were turning people away,” said Belshaw of the permanent shoe bank in downtown Kelowna.
So, be sure to toss a pair of your old shoes in a donation bin at locally participating drop off locations, click here to find out more.