Soles4Souls Canada has collected and distributed 400,000 pairs of shoes since its inception in 2010.
Now the charitable organization is shifting its focus to help more British Columbians who are without shoes.
“We always give back to the local social agencies first, before we send everything offshore. Up to now, it’s been five (to) eight per cent that we’ve given back to the community,” said Jim Belshaw, chair of Soles4Souls Canada and owner of Roy’s Shoes in downtown Kelowna.
“This year our goal is to give back to the community up to 40 or 50 per cent of everything we take in here in B.C.”
To achieve that goal, Soles4Souls Canada has teamed up with Shelter Net BC and Food Banks BC.
Shelter Net BC is a provincial organization that provides support to B.C. organizations that serve the homeless; Food Banks BC is a group of 94 food banks provincially that serve approximately 90,000 British Columbians.
“We have sent out an invitation to all these…agencies and said: We want to help,” said Belshaw.
“The response has been overwhelming.”
As the April shoe drive kicks off, volunteers will sort shoes every Tuesday and Saturday at the charity’s Industrial Avenue warehouse.
Within the next week or two, Belshaw hopes to have shoes being shipped to those in need across the province.
“Many of the people we serve…are getting back into a life that’s productive, and access to good quality shoes and boots makes their journey so much easier,” said Randy Benson, executive director of Kelowna’s Gospel Mission, who was representing Shelter Net BC at Friday’s shoe drive kick-off.
“Often times we don’t think of that.”
Lenetta Parry, executive director of the Westside and Kelowna Community Food Banks, was representing Food Banks BC at the kick-off event.
“Shoes are something that people take for granted and unfortunately we hear stories all the time of people who are in need,” said Parry.
“For some a pair of work boots is the difference between being in the line-up at the food bank or being gainfully employed.”
Belshaw said the goal is to raise 100,000 more shoes this year. If that goal is achieved, Soles4Souls Canada will have brought in 500,000 pairs of shoes in its first five years.
Another goal of the charity’s is to encourage businesses, schools and clubs across the province to complete in-house shoe drives throughout the year. He noted the biggest need is for donations of steel-toe boots.
Friday’s kickoff event concluded with a cheque presentation from the Rotary Club of Kelowna Sunrise. The club donated $10,000 to the initiative and committed to donate the same amount every year, for the next five years.
The Soles4Souls Canada shoe drive takes place throughout the entire month of April. Shoes can be donated at several locations throughout Kelowna. For a full list of drop-off locations, or for more information, visit soles4soulscanada.com.